Bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites exist on the skin and in mucus, blood and other body fluids. Some germs are transferred through inhalation and others are obtained by touch. And if you're not using good hand washing technique, you'll probably find yourself affected by one of these diseases. Take a look at the illnesses that may kill you or make your life difficult . So you really need to keep your hands clean at all times.
As you likely know by now, people are understandably concerned about the coronavirus, or COVID-19. This new virus can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory failure, and death in some patients, especially the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the mortality rate may be as high as 3.4 percent. Not only can it be transmitted easily via respiratory droplets and have an incubation period of up to 14 days, but people can be asymptomatic carriers—meaning that they can unknowingly pass it on to others.
So, how can you protect yourself and help to slow the spread of this disease? By avoiding close contact with sick people, staying home if you’re not feeling well, and, you guessed it, regularly and properly washing your hands.
Norovirus can spread very easily. It actually takes only one particle to get you sick, and you can catch it from:
close contact with someone with norovirus
touching surfaces or objects that have the virus on them, then touching your mouth
eating food that's been prepared or handled by someone with norovirus
Washing your hands frequently with soap and water is the best way to stop it spreading. Alcohol hand gels do not kill norovirus.
The flu can be deadly—and not just to those who are very young, very old, or immunocompromised. Flu is very infectious and easily spread to other people. You're more likely to give it to others in the first 5 days.
Flu is spread by germs from coughs and sneezes, which can live on hands and surfaces for 24 hours.
To reduce the risk of spreading flu:
wash your hands often with warm water and soap
use tissues to trap germs when you cough or sneeze
bin used tissues as quickly as possible
In many cases, infectious diseases, such as influenza, can be transmitted before a person has signs and symptoms of the disease. Hand washing can make sure you’re not unwittingly infecting yourself.
People rub their eyes to alleviate the discomfort and then touch their surroundings, the virus or bacteria that cause conjunctivitis ends up on all sorts of surfaces, where it can live for hours or even days. Children are at particular risk for infection and transmission.
Teaching children proper hand washing techniques from an early age will help them, and everyone around them, to stay healthy now and in the future.
Salmonellosisis a symptomatic infection caused by bacteria of the Salmonella type. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting. Symptoms typically occur between 12 hours and 36 hours after exposure, and last from two to seven days. In some cases, the diarrhea associated with salmonella infection can be so dehydrating as to require prompt medical attention. Life-threatening complications also may develop if the infection spreads beyond your intestines. Your risk of acquiring salmonella infection is higher if you travel to countries with poor sanitation.
Commonly infected foods include:
Raw meat, poultry and seafood. Feces may get onto raw meat and poultry during the butchering process. Seafood may be contaminated if harvested from contaminated water.
Raw eggs. While an egg's shell may seem to be a perfect barrier to contamination, some infected chickens produce eggs that contain salmonella before the shell is even formed. Raw eggs are used in homemade versions of mayonnaise and hollandaise sauce.
Fruits and vegetables. Some fresh produce, particularly imported varieties, may be hydrated in the field or washed during processing with water contaminated with salmonella. Contamination also can occur in the kitchen, when juices from raw meat and poultry come into contact with uncooked foods, such as salads.
You probably know it as “the kissing disease,” but mono- and the Epstein-Barr virus that causes it - is not only transmitted through kissing. Saliva is the main culprit, so objects that an infected person has sneezed on, coughed on, or touched could subsequently infect you should. Sharing drinks or utensils is also a common way to spread this.
The virus has an incubation period of approximately four to six weeks, although in young children this period may be shorter. Signs and symptoms such as a fever and sore throat usually lessen within a couple of weeks, but fatigue, enlarged lymph nodes and a swollen spleen may last for a few weeks longer.
Anyone knows how painful and common hand, foot and mouth disease is. It causes mouth ulcers and red spots on the hands and feet. It mainly affects children. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is most commonly caused by a coxsackievirus.
There's no specific treatment for hand-foot-and-mouth disease. Frequent hand-washing and avoiding close contact with people who are infected with hand-foot-and-mouth disease may help reduce your child's risk of infection.
Here’s another reason to be vigilant about handwashing if you’re pregnant. Good hygiene can prevent the transmission of this virus in the herpes family that can cause serious harm to your unborn child, including hearing and vision loss, intellectual disability, and even death. According to the medical journal BMC Public Health, cytomegalovirus is often passed along through the saliva or urine of young children, and the majority of CMV infections in otherwise-healthy people go undiagnosed.
Caused by a bacteria commonly found on the skin and in the noses of healthy people, staph can become life-threatening if the bacteria gets deep into your body and infects your blood, joints, and heart. Things can get particularly dangerous with an antibiotic-resistant strain of staph called MRSA. The stubborn bacterium can live on inanimate objects, such as towels or gym equipment. If you wash your hands, you will lessen the risk of these bacteria being transmitted from person to person. Other preventive measures include keeping wounds covered and not sharing personal items.
Here’s a crazy statistic from the CDC: Almost all children will have an RSV infection by the time they turn two. The thing is, you will probably just think your child has a cold. But in some children - especially those born prematurely - and in people over 65 with weakened immune systems, this virus can cause breathing problems, pneumonia, bronchiolitis, and death. In fact, it kills more than 200 children each year and 14,000 older adults. Like other respiratory illnesses, coughing and sneezing send infected droplets through the air and onto surfaces.
The good news: Hepatitis A doesn’t cause chronic liver disease like its cousins B and C.
The bad news: It can still make you really sick, causing gastrointestinal problems, fever, fatigue, and jaundice. In some cases, it can even cause acute liver failure and necessitate hospitalization. You’ll likely hear about hepatitis A outbreaks at restaurants, since this virus is often transmitted when someone hasn’t washed their hands after using the bathroom before preparing your food, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
While you’re worrying about horrible things that can make you sick, don’t forget about parasites. Hand washing can help to prevent this particular microscopic parasite from taking up residence in your small intestine, where it will cause nausea, diarrhea, and dehydration. To prevent transmission, hand washing is particularly important before preparing or eating food, after using the bathroom or changing a diaper, and after touching sea creatures in a “touch tank” at the aquarium. Since giardiasis can also be contracted through contaminated water or food, make sure to bring your own water on camping trips (or boil stream water for ten minutes), and wash your fruits and veggies well before eating them.
We often hear about E. coli outbreaks in terms of food consumption - red meat and romaine lettuce, for example, but it can also be passed by coming into contact with an infected person or animal. Washing hands in cold, lukewarm and hot water all work equally well.
The common cold
While not as serious as these other diseases, a cold can still make you feel miserable and ruin your week. Hand washing can lower your risk of catching a respiratory illness by 45 percent.