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Teaching the importance of handwashing

It's just like your mothers always said: wash your hands and you won't get sick. That's the message of Baptist Health Corbin's Germbusters, a group that is teaching students in Whitley, Laurel and Knox county schools about the importance of handwashing to health.

An outbreak of Shigella, or Dysentery, in a nearby area prompted the idea of the Germbusters. Prevention of such an outbreak in our area is a top priority at Baptist Health Corbin.

What is Shigella?

Shigella is the most communicable form of the bacterial diarrheas, usually the result of person-to-person transfer. In the United States, approximately 60 percent of Shigella cases are in children younger than nine years old, with more than one-third occurring in children between the ages of one and four.

Studies suggest that fecal contamination of toilet seats occurs from children with diarrhea in nursery and primary schools, and that infection is transferred to the hands of the younger children to others. Adults often acquire the illness from their children. Thus, whole families become infected with the Shigella organism. Secondary infection rates are very high in families, and recurrent infection is a major problem in schools and day care centers.

Most cases of Shigella are the result of person-to-person transmission. Symptoms include:

  • fever;
  • cramping and abdominal pain;
  • watery, bloody, mucous diarrhea stools; and
  • a constant desire to defecate, which occurs at the peak of an active infection.

Most of the time, the only thing that can be done for someone with Shigella is to treat the fever, pain and diarrhea. Of course, the best alternative is to prevent this illness. That's where handwashing comes into the picture.

The Importance of Handwashing

Handwashing remains the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection. It can reduce or eliminate the spread of germs by the hands. Everyone should lather and vigorously scrub their hands together, followed by rinsing with fingers downward under a stream of warm water. This suspends and rinses away the germs. This simple step may eliminate trips to the doctor's office or a stay in the hospital. In fact, effective handwashing may prevent whole families from becoming ill.

Become a Germbuster

Germbusters from Baptist Health Corbin explain to preschool and elementary school age children how they come in contact with germs and how to eliminate them with good handwashing habits. After touching items dusted with Glo-germ powder, students enter a "Germbuster House" equipped with black lights and mirrors. They can look into the mirrors and see the "germs" on their hands and faces.

The children also take a letter home to their parents explaining what they have learned. The letter emphasizes the importance of handwashing for the entire family and encourages parents to reinforce the idea of handwashing, particularly after going to the bathroom, playing outside and before meals or snacks.

To learn how you can be a Germbuster with good handwashing habits, click here. For information on how to bring the Germbuster program to your school, preschool or day care center, contact Baptist Health Corbin's Community Health Services at (606) 523-8533.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have several good articles on stopping the spread of germs at school and work.  Please click on these articles listed below to find out how to prevent the spread of germs.: