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November 30, 2021

December 1st-7th is National Handwashing Awareness Week

December 1st-7th is National Handwashing Awareness Week. It is a great time to take a closer look at handwashing and its importance in disease control and prevention.

Germs are spread through the chain of infection. When person A coughs or sneezes, those germs are passed onto person A's hands. If person A then touches person B's hands or touches an inanimate item and person B then touches that object and touches his or her face,  nose or mouth, those germs can infect person B.

Germs can also be passed through blood and bodily fluids such as feces and vomit. If the person touches these fluids or a surface contaminated with these fluids, that person can get sick as well.


In both cases above, good hand hygiene would "break" the chain of infection and may prevent its spread.  Handwashing can prevent one in three cases of diarrhea-related infections and one in five cases of respiratory infections such as colds and flus. (Fact Sheets | Handwashing | CDC, 2020)

The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed the Clean Hands Count CampaignExternal Website as a way to get healthcare providers, patients, and the community involved in ensuring everyone follows the CDC guidelines for hand hygiene. Educate your patients the importance of good hand hygiene and the role it plays in the overall health and wellbeing of our communities and ourselves.

Handwashing Basics

When to Clean Your Hands

When to clean your hands:

  • Any time your hands are visibly dirty
  • Before making and/or eating food
  • Before and after using the bathroom
  • After changing a diaper or caring for someone that needs assistance with the bathroom
  • Before touching eyes, nose and/or mouth
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • Before and after performing any medical procedures such as cleaning a cut or applying a bandage
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • After touching an animal or handling animal food, treats, or waste
  • After disposing trash or garbage
  • After touching any surfaces that may be contaminated (such as doorknobs, tv remotes, phones, etc.)

Healthcare providers

  • Same guidance as the ones listed in patients/community


  • Before entering a patient's room
  • Before and after touching a patient
  • Before performing an aseptic procedure
  • Before handling any invasive medical equipment and/or devices
  • After working on a soiled body area before moving to work on a clean body area
  • After removing gloves
  • After any contact with body or bodily fluids or contact with contaminated surfaces

How to clean your hands

Soap and water

  • Wet all surfaces of the hands with warm water.
  • Apply soap to hands.
  • Rub hands together to create a lather, ensuring to clean all surfaces of the hands including the tops of the hands, back of the hands, between the fingers, around the wrists, and under the fingernails.
  • Continue to rub the hands for at least 15-20 seconds.
  • Rinse hands thoroughly under running, warm water, making sure to remove all soap lather from the hands.
  • Dry hands with a paper towel.
  • Dispose of paper towel.
  • Use a clean, dry paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door (if needed).
  • Dispose of paper towel.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (only use if hands are not visibly dirty)

  • Apply product to hands, ensuring that enough product has been applied to cover all surfaces of your hands.
  • Rub hands together until hands are dry (approximately 20 seconds).

Visit the CMS Preventive Services websiteExternal Website and Your Guide to Medicare Preventive ServicesExternal Website website to learn more about other Medicare-covered services.

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