Last updateMon, 18 Jun 2018 2pm


Dry hands with single-use paper towels to keep you and your family healthy
Europe is currently in the grip of a flu epidemic. WHO and ECDC’s FluNewsEurope reports both influenza A and B viruses as widespread across the continent with Italy, Luxembourg and Spain recording the highest intensity of incidents and Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, Wales and Kosovo the second highest intensity. As health services are strained to the limit, major public information campaigns such as the UK’s ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’ are being run in an attempt to reduce infections of both flu and norovirus, which are being recorded in rising numbers.

Most of us come into contact with literally hundreds of people every day as we travel on public transport, go to school or work and socialise in cafes or cinemas. Hence, every time we touch a door or hand rail or handle cash we are potentially exposing ourselves to a host of viruses. Experts urge that practicing good hand hygiene is crucial to staying healthy and minimising the spread of infection.

Leading virologist and epidemiologist Marc Van Ranst, of KU Leuven and the Rega Institute for Medical Research, has undertaken extensive research into virus transmission and has some important advice: “Viruses can survive on the hands for a considerable time: Influenza viruses last 10-15 minutes, herpesviruses for up to two hours, and the common cold virus and the rotavirus, which causes gastro-intestinal infections, for even longer. Hence proper hand washing and hand drying are essential to keeping infection at bay.”

In public washrooms, people should use single-use paper towels to dry their hands after washing in order to minimise the risk of infection and there is extensive research to support this. Experts at the University of Westminster and University of Leeds and Leeds Teaching Hospitals have studied different hand drying methods and their potential to spread bacteria and viruses. They found single-use paper towels spread the lowest number of microbes of all hand-drying methods, while jet air and warm air dryers can result in the widespread dispersal of micro-organisms – both in the air and through cross contamination.(i)(ii)(iii)

A recent pilot study by the Microbiology department at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Leeds (iv) also found washrooms with jet air dryers carried more microbes. Floors and dryer units were most heavily contaminated, with twenty-seven times more Enterococcus faecalis, which can cause a variety of infections, recovered from the jet air dryer unit compared to the paper hand towel dispenser.

Van Ranst concludes; “Fostering good hand hygiene habits within the family is crucial in keeping people healthy – particularly during the winter months when flu and colds abound. The body of research confirms that single-use paper towels offer superior hand drying and minimise the spread of infection following hand washing.”

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