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Vol. 11 No. 1 (2020): Volume 11: Determining Health

Hand hygiene: A simple strategy for health care-associated infection prevention and control with implications for control of the current COVID-19 outbreak

February 26, 2020


The World Health Organization (WHO) defines Health Care-Associated Infection (HCAI) as an infection a patient acquired in health care settings. In Canada, more than 220,000 patients are infected by HCAIs annually, with 8,500 to 12,000 of these patients resulting in death, thus becoming the fourth leading cause of death for Canadians. Hand hygiene practice is the most critical measure to prevent HCAIs, however, research indicates that in hospitals worldwide, just 40% of health care workers abide by the advised hand hygiene guidelines. A new effective HCAI control and prevention program is needed to sustain benefits, building on prior interventions such as including hand hygiene education that stresses the necessity of this practice in the protocol, providing factual proof of the effectiveness of hand hygiene, the acknowledgment by senior staff of their responsibility as role models for all staff, innovative technological methods, and regular auditing/feedback. With the current outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that has infected millions around the world, a new HCAI control and prevention program can increase the compliance rate of handwashing with alcohol-based hand rub/sanitizer amongst healthcare professionals thus aiding in prevention and control of spread within the community.