Worries about the H1N1 influenza virus haven't changed most Americans' handwashing habits, says a national survey by Bradley Corporation, a manufacturer of commercial bathroom and locker room furnishings.
In Bradley's first Healthy Hand Washing Survey, 54 percent said they "wash their hands no more or less frequently" in public restrooms since the H1N1 influenza virus emerged.
"We were extremely surprised by that response especially since the medical community calls hand washing the best defense against the spread of cold and flu viruses," says Jon Dommisse, director of marketing and product development at Bradley Corporation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that handwashing is the No. 1 way to fight the transmission of pathogenic organisms.
Bradley's survey, conducted online July 28-31, queried 1,020 Americans about handwashing in public restrooms. The respondents were from around the country, ranged in age from 18 to 65-plus and were equally divided by gender.
Although 87 percent said they did wash their hands after using public lavatories, other responses indicated some may have exaggerated how often they did the job correctly. When asked if they had also used soap, the numbers declined slightly to 86 percent; yet 55 percent of the group admitted on occasion they've simply rinsed, without using soap.
In contrast to what people say they do, numerous observational studies have reported what Americans actually do. In 2007, researchers from the American Society for Microbiology found only 77 percent washed their hands after using a public restroom. In 2004, the Minnesota Department of Health observed handwashing at the Minnesota state fairgrounds, finding 75 percent of women and 51 percent of men washed with soap and water after using a public restroom.