Studies Shed Light on Hand Hygiene Knowledge and Infection Risk in Hospitals and Elementary Schools

Washington, DC, August 4, 2011 - Increased hand hygiene knowledge positively correlates with a decreased risk of transmitting infection among both healthcare workers (HCW) and elementary school children, according to two studies published in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control ( AJIC), the official publication of  APIC - the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

In the first study, conducted by Anne McLaughlin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Psychology at North Carolina State University, 71 nurses, infection preventionists and hospital environmental services managers participated in a national survey gauging hand hygiene knowledge and beliefs. Each HCW assessed 16 real-life simulations designed to test their perceived risk of infection, based on their level of hygiene knowledge as well as their internal health locus of control (internal-HLC)—a measurement of how much influence they perceive themselves as having over controlling the spread of infection.

The study found that across all knowledge- and HLC-levels, HCWs perceived surfaces as safer to touch than patient skin, in spite of research that has proven touching one contaminated surface (known as a fomite) can spread bacteria to up to the next seven surfaces touched.

“Despite the dangers that fomites present, this knowledge may not be common enough among HCWs for them to understand the level of risk when touching surfaces and then touching patients,” say the authors.

Hand Hygiene is “Elementary”

Hand washing programs among school children may have a lasting effect in reducing school absences, according to a study published in the August issue of AJIC. A three-month targeted intervention to reduce student absenteeism through increased hand hygiene was conducted in 2008. Infection preventionist Inge Nandrup-Bus, RN, directed the study at two elementary schools in Denmark and compared her results to a similar study she performed in 2007—the only significant change being that for the second trial, the Intervention School (IS) and the Control School (CS) were reversed.

At the IS, 324 pupils ages 5-14 years were each given one lesson in hand disinfection theory and practice and directed to disinfect their hands using ethanol gel three times throughout the school day. Over the three months of the intervention, this measure resulted in a 66 percent decrease in pupils with four or more days of absence and a 20 percent increase in children with zero absences over the 2007 data from the same school.

In the CS, however, which had been the intervention school the prior year in hand washing, no significant changes were noted between 2007 and 2008—a result that strongly suggests that even with low participation rates (20% in 2007 and 21% in 2008) and the passage of time, merely increasing hand hygiene education can have a long-term, significant impact on the spread of infection.

“Regular training in HW (hand washing) and HD (hand disinfection) would be a simple, low cost action with very significant impact on reducing infectious illness absence periods among pupils,” stated the author.

Full text of both articles is available to journalists upon request; contact Liz Garman, APIC, +1 202 454 2604, egarman@apic.orgto obtain copies.


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About AJIC: American Journal of Infection Control
AJIC: American Journal of Infection Control ( www.ajicjournal.org) covers key topics and issues in infection control and epidemiology. Infection preventionists, including physicians, nurses, and epidemiologists, rely on AJIC for peer-reviewed articles covering clinical topics as well as original research. As the official publication of  APIC - the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology - AJIC is the foremost resource on infection control, epidemiology, infectious diseases, quality management, occupational health, and disease prevention. AJIC also publishes infection control guidelines from APIC and the CDC. Published by  Elsevier, AJIC is included in MEDLINE and CINAHL.

About APIC
APIC’s mission is to improve health and patient safety by reducing risks of infection and other adverse outcomes. The association’s more than 14,000 members direct infection prevention programs that save lives and improve the bottom line for hospitals and other healthcare facilities around the globe. APIC advances its mission through education, research, collaboration, practice guidance, public policy and credentialing. Visit APIC online at  www.apic.org. For consumer-related information, visit  www.preventinfection.org.

Notes for Editors
“Individual Differences in Judgments of Hygiene Risk by Healthcare Workers” and “Comparative Studies of Hand Disinfection and Hand Washing Procedures as Tested by Pupils in Intervention Programs” both appear in the American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 39, Issue 6 (August 2011).

Authors
“Individual Differences in Judgments of Hygiene Risk by Healthcare Workers”
Corresponding Author: Anne Collins McLaughlin, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Fran Walsh, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Kimberly-Clark Corporation.

“Comparative Studies of Hand Disinfection and Hand Washing Procedures as Tested by Pupils in Intervention Programs”
Corresponding Author:Inge Nandrup-Bus, RN, Health Visitor, Infection Control Nurse, IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), Kokkedal, Denmark.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading provider of information solutions that enhance the performance of science, health, and technology professionals, empowering them to make better decisions, deliver better care, and sometimes make groundbreaking discoveries that advance the boundaries of knowledge and human progress. Elsevier provides web-based, digital solutions — among them ScienceDirect, Scopus, Elsevier Research Intelligence, and ClinicalKey — and publishes nearly 2,200 journals, including The Lancet and Cell, and over 25,000 book titles, including a number of iconic reference works.

The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, a world leading provider of professional information solutions in the Science, Medical, Legal and Risk and Business sectors, which is jointly owned by Reed Elsevier PLC and Reed Elsevier NV. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

Media contact
Liz Garman
+1 202 454 2604
egarman@apic.org