Flu season is imminent and that means an increase in emergency visits and hospital admissions. While the United States usually sees a peak in the seasonal flu in January and February, outbreaks can occur as early as October according to the CDC. DebMed®, creator of an electronic hand hygiene compliance monitoring system based on the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Five Moments for Hand Hygiene, wants to keep hospital patients and visitors, as well as physicians and clinical staff, safe with needed information about proper hand hygiene.
"Each year the advice is always given to wash hands to prevent the spread of flu, but people need to know not only how, but when they and their doctors should be cleaning their hands," says Heather McLarney, vice president of marketing for DebMed. "This flu season we are urging everyone to not only know and follow the steps for appropriate hand washing, but to also have the knowledge and be empowered to assure that doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are cleaning their hands appropriately. Together we can all ensure that recommended hand washing is the first line of defense against a possible flu epidemic."
McLarney stresses that proper hand hygiene is imperative, but not always done correctly to best reduce contamination. If everyone more readily complies with the WHO Five Moments of Hand Hygiene, it will help combat spreading germs this flu season. The "Five Moments" as described by the WHO are before patient contact, before aseptic task, after body fluid exposure risk, after patient contact and after contact with patient surroundings.
The DebMed GMS (Group Monitoring System) electronically monitors healthcare workers' hand hygiene events in accordance with the WHO Five Moments for Hand Hygiene and provides feedback on compliance rates in real-time.
As defined by the CDC, the best way to prepare for flu season is to receive a yearly flu vaccine as the first step in protecting yourself. Aside from the vaccine, proper hand washing is essential, according to the CDC. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol to clean your hands.
What is the right way to wash your hands?
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap
- Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails
- Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice
- Rinse your hands well under running water
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them
"Patients and hospital visitors should be empowered with knowledge on how to prevent getting sick with the flu, and that can start with the simple act of cleaning your hands," says McLarney. "Be aware of hand cleaning stations in the facility that you can easily access and don't be afraid to ask hospital staff if they have washed their hands."
Hospital patients and visitors can also ask the facility if they follow the WHO's Five Moments for Hand Hygiene, which includes instances at which staff should clean their hands. Adhering to the Five Moments rather than the industry standard of only cleaning hands when going "in and out" of patient rooms can greatly reduce the possibility of spreading infections, according to DebMed.