Scientists continue to be wary of the next great pandemic. The Black death of the 1300s is estimated to have claimed 75 million lives worldwide. In the 1990s cholera took 10,000 lives in South America. The Spanish Flu, first identified at a military base in Kansas in 1918, was responsible for 25 million deaths worldwide in just 6 months.
The search for new vaccines, new methods to prevent the rapid spread of infections, and efficient pandemic protocols are in high gear. But, while progress is certainly being made, scientists say we should not overlook an old-fashioned technique:
Wash Your Hands...
Science continues to verify old truths on a number of health fronts. The age-old mother's admonition about handwashing may be among the most important.
A recent report in the British Medical Journal detailed the results of a review of 51 studies. The studies analyzed the effectiveness of interventions such as isolation, barriers, and hygiene. The results indicate that handwashing, as well as wearing masks, gowns, and gloves, offers protection against the spread of disease. Separate studies have shown that washing your hands with soap and water helps you avoid common respiratory illnesses.
High tech health care is fabulous. But, don't forget the everyday, simple solutions - wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands...To read more about the report, see this from Reuters. To read more about the importance and health benefits of handwashing, see this from the Mayo Clinic.