German researchers say that hand disinfection could be a viable way for individuals to remain healthy in the workplace outside of a healthcare setting. The research was published in BMC Infectious Diseases.
Nils-Olaf Hübner, of the Institute of Hygiene and Environmental Medicine in Greifswald, Germany, and colleagues say explain that the economical impact of absenteeism and reduced productivity due to acute infectious respiratory and gastrointestinal disease is normally not in the focus of surveillance systems and may therefore be underestimated. However, large community studies in the U.S. and in Europe have shown that communicable diseases have a great impact on morbidity and lead to millions of lost days at work, school and university each year. Hand disinfection is acknowledged as key element for infection control, but its effect in open, workplace settings is unclear.
Hubner, et al. (2010), conducted a prospective, controlled, intervention-control group design to assess the epidemiological and economical impact of alcohol-based hand disinfectants use in the workplace. Volunteers working in public administration in the city of Greifswald were randomized in two groups. Participants in the intervention group were provided with alcoholic hand disinfection, the control group was unchanged. Respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms and days of work were recorded based on a monthly questionnaire over one year. On the whole, 1,230 person months were evaluated.
The researchers report that hand disinfection reduced the number of episodes of illness for the majority of the registered symptoms, including the common cold, fever and coughing. Participants in the intervention group reported fewer days ill for most of the aforementioned symptoms assessed. For diarrhea, the odds ratio for being absent became statistically significant.
Hubner, et al. (2010) conclude that hand disinfection can easily be introduced and maintained outside clinical settings as part of the daily hand hygiene, and is a cost-efficient method within the scope of company health programs.
Reference: Hubner NO, Hubner C, Wodny M, Kampf G and Kramer A. Effectiveness of alcohol-based hand disinfectants in a public administration: Impact on health and work performance related to acute respiratory symptoms and diarrhea. BMC Infectious Diseases. 2010, 10:250doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-250.