Public Health Agency ‘cleans up’ at this year’s Balmoral Show

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Each year, millions of infections around the world could be prevented through ensuring good hand hygiene.

With farmers particularly exposed to potentially harmful organisms through their contact with animals and soil, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is using technology at this year’s Balmoral Show to highlight the need for everyone to ‘clean your hands’.

Dr Lourda Geoghegan, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “This year we are taking our hand hygiene message to the Balmoral Show. We are focussing on the importance of good hand hygiene in protecting our families, friends and ourselves from potentially harmful germs.

“We have a ‘Glo-germ’ machine on our stand at the show where members of the public are invited to demonstrate how effective their hand washing technique is. The ‘Glo-germ’ device uses UV to pick up on residue which is left on hands if they haven’t been washed properly, which will highlight to anyone who takes part what extra steps they should take to ensure that they are really cleaning their hands properly. PHA experts will be available during the Show to give advice on the importance of hand hygiene and to demonstrate how to wash hands effectively.”

Effective hand hygiene takes less than one minute. By following these steps, everyone can ensure they have clean hands:

• wet hands with warm water;

• apply enough soap to cover the surface of the hands;

• rub hands together thoroughly applying the soap to all areas including the backs of the hands and between the fingers;

• rinse hands with water;

• dry hands thoroughly.

Anti-bacterial gels and wipes are generally not a substitute for washing hands with soap and warm water as gels and wipes may not be able to remove contamination in the way that running water can. However, they may be useful if hand-washing facilities are not readily available.

Dr Geoghegan continued: “Our hand hygiene message is particularly relevant to the public attending the Balmoral Show. There are lots of opportunities to get up close and personal with livestock at the show, and farm animals may carry a range of organisms which can be passed to children and adults. These organisms can cause serious infections such as E. coli O157, and may be passed from animals to people and then spread further within a household setting.

“Hand washing with soap and water will reduce the risk of picking up these infections, which can be particularly harmful to young children or older people. By being aware and simply washing our hands we can help to avoid illness and enjoy a fun day out at the show or when working on or visiting the farm.”

Guidelines on washing hands are available from the PHA online at: www.bit.ly/handcleansing