PAHO says the lack of adequate and timely hand hygiene raises the risk of health care-associated infections and the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which risks patients’ lives.
“The fight against antibiotic resistance is in your hands” is the motto of this year’s campaign, led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Jonas Gonseth-Garcia, PAHO advisor on quality health systems and services, said infections associated with health care represent “the most frequent adverse occurrence” in the region during hospital care.
“These can be avoided with hand hygiene,” he said.
To make it easier for health workers to clean their hands at the right time and in the right way, Gonseth-Garcia urged hospitals and health centers to make alcohol solution easily accessible.
“They will help protect people from infections that often put their lives at risk,” he said.
PAHO said the five key moments for hand hygiene recommended by WHO are: Before touching the individual; before performing a clean or aseptic task; after the risk of exposure to body fluids; after touching the individual; and after contact with the person’s environment.
The organisation also says that resistance to antibiotics is one of the greatest threats to global health, food security and development.
As a result, serious infections are becoming more difficult to treat because of the loss of efficacy of antibiotics.
“Antibiotic-resistant bacteria prolong hospitalization, increase medical costs and, most worryingly, increase mortality,” said Pilar Ramón Pardo, PAHO’s antimicrobial resistance advisor.
He said a measure as simple as hand hygiene prevents the transmission of bacteria, “which is critical in health facilities.”
Ramón Pardo said when new infections are prevented, the use of antibiotics is reduced and, consequently, the development of resistance is also prevented.
“Cleaning your hands takes 20 seconds, but developing new antibiotics takes years,” he said.
PAHO, therefore, calls on policy makers to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance, making infection prevention and hand hygiene a national policy priority.
It also calls for the implementation of essential WHO components for the prevention and control of infections, including hand hygiene as an effective measure to combat antibiotic resistance.
Additionally, PAHO urges hospital managers and managers to “maintain effective disease prevention and control programs associated with health care throughout the year to protect people.”
- Countries: Caribbean