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CAB Reviews

A reviews journal covering agriculture, global health, nutrition, natural resources and veterinary science

CAB Review

Hand washing - its role in preventing water, foodborne and healthcare-associated diseases.


The rise in indices of infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance is a cause for concern and calls for multiple approaches for control to be considered. The most exposed parts of the body, such as hands, skin, head and the face are a leading source of these pathogens. Hands in particular are in frequent contact with contaminated surfaces of both animate and inanimate objects. Diseases transmitted by contaminated hands are both airborne (such as influenza, adenovirus, hand-foot-mouth disease and tuberculosis) waterborne via droplets or dust (such as hepatitis A, cholera, diarrhoea etc.) and foodborne (such as foodborne illnesses, shigellosis and aspergillosis). Causative agents of such diseases include Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhi, hepatitis A virus, norovirus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis among others. Human and animal faces, handrails, table-tops and toys are some of the sources of these pathogens. An effective preventive strategy is the thorough washing of hands using soaps and detergents or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.