Nurses and doctors who participated in the campaign. — Courtesy photo
The Deputy Minister of Health for Development and Planning, Dr. Muhammad Hamza Khushaim, warned one’s hands are a medium for the spread of bacterial and viral infections from one person to another. Dr. Khushaim further stated that a simple and effective way to reduce the spread of contagious diseases is to regularly wash our hands, adding that health professionals worldwide censure the neglect of hand washing among the general public, even though the act takes no more than a minute at a time.
The Ministry of Health has launched an educational and awareness campaign at various health centers and hospitals to encourage patients to regularly wash their hands. In addition, a number of workshops are being organized this month to reinforce this essential practice among all physicians, nurses, and all other medical staff who come in contact with patients.
Globally the month of May was the agreed upon month to launch awareness campaigns to promote hand washing, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is participating under the theme: Wash your hands to rescue your lives.
The Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Health for Preventive Medicine, Dr. Ziyad bin Ahmed Mimish, stated, “It was in the month of May that the Austrian scientist and doctor, Sim Louise, first discovered and proved a direct link between lack of hand washing and the spread of infectious diseases among patients. This discovery was made 200 years ago and it served as a vital lesson in the role that the hands play in transmitting infections. Unfortunately, this lesson is still being taught and many members of the society have ignored the recommendation because they do not fully understand the usefulness and efficacy of regular hand washing in halting the transmission of infectious diseases. Lack of compliance and a lack of vigor in washing hands frequently is not only a local health problem; it is a global problem and is witnessed in all countries of the world.”
According to Dr. Mimish, health care costs in the United States as a result of preventable infectious diseases reach as high as 4 billion US dollars each year. Over 2 million patients contract a contagious infection in the United States each year, with the death of 88,000 victims from complications that arise from the infection.
“The biggest and most tragic loss is the loss of human lives; far more damaging than any financial loss. It is each individual’s responsibility to wash his/her hands and to remind those around him/her and to educate them to regularly wash their hands in order to protect their own health and the health of those around them,” added Dr. Mimish.
The Ministry of Health has ordered all government health care centers to install hand sanitizer dispensers in every clinic and patient waiting-room. More awareness campaigns will be targeted towards children because they are more susceptible to catching infections.
Kindergarten teacher Amal Afeef told Saudi Gazette, “I have 22 children in my class and once one student came down with the cold, the rest of the boys and girls in class caught it too. Children are children: they touch their noses, touch each other’s belongings, hold hands while playing together, and share each other’s food. I became a stickler on hand washing and came up with basic rules: Children are taught to wash their hands when they arrive in the morning, after coming inside from playing during recess, before eating, after eating, and especially after using the bathroom. Any child with the cold is given her own tissue box. We bought each student a colorful small towel with popular cartoon characters on them to encourage the children to frequently wash their hands. By the end of the semester, we began to notice a decline in the spread of flu and the common cold.” — SG