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Personal health Bringing good hygiene home

      Research on infections over the past few decades has focused on hospitals, day-care facilities, and schools, but little attention was paid to the home. Today, the increase of foodborne illness and a growing need for home health care have focused renewed interest on hygiene and cleanliness in the home.
      • Tomes N.
      The Gospel of Germs: Men, Women, and the Microbe in American Life.
      “Hygiene” refers to conditions or practices by which people maintain or promote good health by keeping themselves and their surroundings clean. Even in our contemporary society, good hygiene practices continue to be the primary disease-prevention strategy. As described earlier, hygiene is one of the silent victories of public health. This article focuses on hygiene in the newest frontier of disease prevention—the 21st-century home.
      Do personal hygiene and household cleanliness practices affect the risk of spreading infectious disease? In this article, we'll review the “hygiene barrier” concept and the range of hygiene needs within the home environment, and discuss disease-causing microbes—their sources, how they spread, and how their transmission can be controlled by proper personal hygiene and household cleaning practices. This information offers a framework for developing practical home strategies to manage risk from infections.

      The Hygiene Barrier

      A “hygiene barrier” gives us the freedom to experience our lives and do so without the impediments of debilitating diseases or the tragedy of premature death. It is a direct result of the innovations brought about by the health and sanitary revolutions that have swept regions of the world. Through the combined benefits of improved food and water quality and home and personal cleaning practices, the hygienic quality of our environment dramatically reduces routine exposures to pathogenic microorganisms. This reduction in pathogen exposure results in dramatic reductions in infectious diseases and premature death. As is the case with most societal breakthroughs, many people in developed countries have grown to accept reduced rates of illness as the norm, and outbreaks that once would have been accepted as an unavoidable part of life are now viewed as crises of public health requiring swift and decisive interventions.
      Along with the reductions in pathogen exposure and illness, susceptibility to many disease-causing organisms has increased. Therefore, it is important to continually look for ways of improving and maintaining the high levels of hygiene.
      The barrier provided by sanitation and medical advances is not perfect - it can be easily compromised (Figure 4–1). Even in the developed world, where public health standards are high, infectious diseases are still a part of everyday life. Exposure to disease-causing microorganisms can occur as a result of contact with an infected individual, consumption of contaminated food or water, contact with contaminated objects or surfaces, or inadequate personal care habits, all of which compromise the barrier. Understanding and implementing good hygienic cleaning in the home can help reduce the risk of illness by maintaining a “hygiene barrier” that reduces these exposures. Practical knowledge about when and where to clean or use antimicrobial products is equally as important as what product to purchase and how to use it to achieve the best results. The subsequent sections of this chapter provide information to help bring home hygiene into practice.
      Figure thumbnail gr1
      Figure 4-1Maintaining the Hygiene Barrier: A Home Hygiene Strategy

      Hygiene Needs in the Home

      In any given day, the typical home can provide the functions of a hotel, a restaurant, a day-care center, a medical center, or a pet shop.
      The home is a dynamic environment where many different types of activities can be performed by wide range of individuals, all of whom can vary in age, health, and susceptibility. In any given day, the typical home can provide the functions of a hotel, a restaurant, day-care center, a medical center, or a pet shop. Given the wide array of situations that can be present in a home, it is not difficult to imagine that there is a parallel array of potential hygiene needs that accompanies the individuals and activities that make up a typical household day. This continuum of needs correlates with the relative health status of those who live in a household and is illustrated in Figure 4–2.
      • At any given time, the majority of households are made up of healthy individuals with a normal susceptibility to illness. If exposed, they can certainly become sick, but they are not especially susceptible and their symptoms and recovery are somewhat predictable. In these homes, the need for hygiene exists, but is primarily targeted at avoiding known risk situations.
      • If acute illness (gastrointestinal, for example) is present in the home, the need for hygiene increases because there are now additional risks associated with environmental contamination. The chance of more family members becoming ill increases due to the potential of direct person- to-person contact or contact with contaminated surfaces. The number of households where some type of acute illness is present can be relatively large, though smaller than the number of “healthy” homes.
      • Hygiene needs in the home increase even more when those with chronic illness are living there. In such cases the need for extra hygiene lasts longer, but typically involves an even smaller portion of the general population.
      • The highest attention to hygienic cleaning in the home is reserved for the portion of the population that is considered to be immunocompromised. This group consists of infants, the elderly, and those with suppressed immune systems due to chronic illness or medical treatments they receive. This can be a significant portion of the population. For example, this population is estimated to be as high as 20% of the overall U.S. population.
        • Bloomfield S.R.
        • Stevens D.
        Hygiene in the Domestic Setting: The International Situation.
        Exposures to pathogens must be minimized for this group, since their immune systems are least well equipped to fight off disease.
        • Keswick B.H.
        • Berge C.A.
        • Bartolo R.G.
        • Watson D.D.
        Antimicrobial Soaps: Their Role in Personal Hygiene, in Aly R, Beutner KR and Maibach H.
        • Jarvis W.R.
        Infection Control and Changing Health-care Delivery Systems.
      Figure thumbnail gr2
      Figure 4-2Needs Continuum for Home Hygiene

      Pathogen Contact and Disease

      Bacteria and viruses exist throughout our environment and can spread to individuals through direct and indirect contact.
      Direct contact includes person-to-person contact with mucous, blood, and other body fluids, including the fecal-oral route. An individual can also contaminate one region of the body with microbial flora from another area (referred to as endogenous infection). Other means of transmission include direct contact with airborne droplets produced by sneezing and coughing.
      • Goldmann D.
      Transmission of Viral Respiratory Infections in the Home.
      Indirect contact with pathogens occurs by transmission through a contaminated object—usually the hands, but also surfaces. For example, a parent who changes a baby's diaper infected with Shigella and then prepares a family meal without washing his or her hands could transmit the pathogen to others in the family. Using a cutting board to prepare raw chicken, which can be contaminated with Salmonella, and then using the same cutting board to slice fresh fruits and vegetables would be another example. Indirect contact is a common mode of transmission, often responsible for E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks caused by consuming undercooked contaminated meat or other uncooked foods.
      As examples of the diseases that can be prevented by good personal hygiene and household cleaning practices, The American Public Health Association (APHA) Handbook on Control of Communicable Diseases in Man lists scores of human diseases that can be transmitted from person to person (or from animals to persons) by contaminated hands or from soiled objects. Some of these diseases are listed in Figure 4–3. These are the types of diseases for which improvements in personal hygiene and household cleanliness would lower the chances of their spreading.
      Figure thumbnail gr3
      Figure 4-3Examples of Diseases Whose Transmission Is Mitigated by Personal Hygiene, Environmental Hygiene, and/or Household Cleaning
      • Chin J.
      Control of Communicable Diseases Manual.

      Infectious Disease in the Home

      Every day everyone shares their homes with infectious bacteria and other microbes. As a result, the home environment plays a significant role in the transmission of infectious disease.
      • Kagan L.J.
      • Aiello A.E.
      • Larson E.
      The Role of the Home Environment in the Transmission of Infectious Diseases.
      Each year 76 million Americans develop food poisoning,
      • Jay L.S.
      • Comar D.
      • Govenlock L.D.
      A Video Study of Australian Domestic Food-Handling Practices,.
      with about 20% of reported foodborne illnesses occurring in the home.

      J. Andersen, Food Safety Mistakes Caught on Tape (Associated Press /Food and Drug Administration, 2000), accessed June 21, 2000 at http://ipn.intelihealth.com/ipn/ihtIPN.

      Seventy to ninety percent of Salmonella infections are thought to be associated with the home environment.
      • Scott E.
      Hygiene Issues in the Home.
      • Sockett P.N.
      • Cowden J.M.
      • Le Baigue S.
      • Ross D.
      • Adak G.K.
      • Evans H.
      Foodborne Disease Surveillance in England and Wales; 1989-1991.
      • Collins J.E.
      Impact of Changing Consumer Lifestyles on the Emergence/ Reemergence of Foodborne Pathogens.
      • Scuderi G.
      • Fantasia M.
      • Filetei E.
      • Anastasio M.P.
      Foodborne Outbreaks Caused by Salmonella in Italy, 1991-1994.
      In the U.K., cross contamination has been implicated in about 6% of foodborne outbreaks within the home, while poor hand hygiene is responsible for about 4%.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Scott E.
      Cross Contamination and Infection in the Domestic Environment and the Role of Chemical Disinfectants.
      Most indirect exposure to potentially harmful germs in the home occurs as a result of cross contamination. Cross contamination is the transfer of potentially harmful germs from one surface to another, including the hands or food. For example, lower levels of washing hands and surfaces in the home after handling ground beef have been associated with infections of E. coli O157:H7.
      • Mead P.S.
      • Finelli L.
      • Lambert-Fair M.A.
      • Champ D.
      • Townes J.
      • Hutwagner L.
      • Barrett T.
      • Spitalny K.
      • Mintz E.
      Risk Factors for Sporadic Infection with Escherichia Coli O157:H7.
      The home environment has been implicated in the spread of salmonellosis among young children.
      • Schutze G.E.
      • Sikes J.D.
      • Stefanova R.
      • Cave M.D.
      The Home Environment and Salmonellosis in Children.
      Bacterial isolates obtained from children infected with Salmonella and samples taken from multiple locations in the home, such as the vacuum cleaner, dirt surrounding the front door, and a refrigerator shelf, as well as from household members and pet animals, were identical, indicating the Salmonella was transmitted from a common source.
      Microbes can be brought into the home by one family member and spread to others. For example, children can carry infectious agents picked up in child-care settings, schools, or play groups into the home, leading to up to 50% of household members becoming infected.
      • Scott E.
      Hygiene Issues in the Home.
      • Davies J.M.B.
      Symptomless Carriers in Home Contacts in Sonne Dysentery.
      • Thomas M.
      • Tillet H.E.
      Sonne Dysentery in Day Schools and Nurseries: An Eighteen-Year Study in Edmonton.
      Intrafamilial spread of bacteria and infections has been demonstrated in a number of other studies.
      • Oosterom J.
      • den Uyl C.H.
      • Banffer J.R.
      • Huisman J.
      Epidemiological Investigations on Campylobacter Jejuni in Households with a Primary Infection.
      • Parry S.M.
      • Salmon R.L.
      Sporadic STEC O157 Infection: Secondary Household Transmission in Wales.

      Shopsin B, Mathema B, Martinez B, Campo M, Alcabes P and Kreiswirth B. Familial Carriage and Transmission of S. Aureus Colonizing Children and Their Guardians, in Third Annual Symposium of Molecular Epidemiology (New York: New York Academy of Medicine, 1990).

      • Perry S.
      • de la Luz Sanchez M.
      • Hurst P.L.
      • Parsonnet J.
      Household Transmission of Gastroenteritis.
      Bacteria brought into the home can be transferred directly from person to person (direct contact), typically via hand contact, or by a person touching a surface in the home previously contaminated by another person or by contaminated objects (indirect contact).
      The remainder of this article examines microbes in the home and how to control them on surfaces and the hands.
      Microbial Risk Modeling
      Techniques for microbial risk modeling for early detection and prevention of future health risks within the home and community have recently been developed.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Scott E.
      A Risk Assessment Approach to Use of Disinfectants in the Community.
      • Jones M.
      Application of HACCP to Identify Hygiene Risks in the Home.
      • Haas C.
      • Rose J.
      • Gerba C.
      Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment.
      Some of these models include Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment (QMRA).
      • Jones M.
      Application of HACCP to Identify Hygiene Risks in the Home.
      • Haas C.
      • Rose J.
      • Gerba C.
      Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment.
      The reader is referred to these sources for details on this rapidly evolving area.

      Microbes in the Home: Where They're Found

      Microbes can thrive wherever there is an ample source of nutrients and water. Studies have shown that areas in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry can serve as reservoirs for the growth of microbes. Bacteria, like Pseudomonads and E. coli, as well as molds, prefer areas with high humidity, such as drains, sinks, shower stalls, toilets, and basements. Other bacteria such as Staphylococci and Bacilli prefer drier surfaces like counter tops or skin.
      The following sections take a room-by-room look at the typical home and describe some of the unique hygiene issues associated with the different environments encountered.

      Cross Contamination Via Surfaces: Focus on the Kitchen

      The most heavily contaminated sites in the home are those that remain moist, such as sponges, dishcloths, and drian areas, or that are frequently touched, such as kitchen sink faucet handles.
      Poor food storage and preparation practices, along with moist surfaces, contribute to kitchens being bacteria- friendly environments. When not properly cleaned and/or disinfected, counter tops, cutting boards, and other kitchen surfaces provide an optimum environment, for survival of microbes.
      • de Wit J.C.
      • Broekhuizen G.
      • Kampelmacher E.H.
      Cross Contamination During the Preparation of Frozen Chickens in the Kitchen.
      The most heavily contaminated sites in the home are those that remain moist, such as sponges, dishcloths, and drain areas, or that are frequently touched, such as kitchen sink faucet handles.
      • Rusin P.
      • Orosz-Coughlin P.
      • Gerba C.
      Reduction of Fecal Coliform, Coliform and Heterotrophic Plate Count Bacteria in the Household Kitchen and Bathroom by Disinfection with Hypochlorite Cleaners.
      According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1983 and 1992, improper storage temperatures and poor personal hygiene by the food handler in commercial settings were the main contributors to foodborne illness.
      • Collins J.E.
      Impact of Changing Consumer Lifestyles on the Emergence/ Reemergence of Foodborne Pathogens.
      Unfortunately, these faulty practices are also common in the home. Specific risk factors for outbreaks of infections due to foodborne pathogens in the home kitchen include improper food storage, undercooking food, and cross contamination, which may be responsible for 30% of Salmonella outbreaks in the home.
      • Humphrey T.
      Can Consumers Prevent the Spread of Foodborne Pathogens in Domestic Kitchens? Proceedings of Euroconference.
      An example would be the cross contamination that occurs when vegetables are cut up on the same cutting board that was just used to cut up raw chicken.
      • Zhao P.
      • Zhao T.
      • Doyle M.P.
      • Rubino J.R.
      • Meng J.
      Development of a Model for Evaluation of Microbial Cross Contamination in the Kitchen.
      The germs from the raw chicken end up in the vegetables. When the vegetables are eaten, the germs can cause illness. Bacterial cross contamination can occur from raw chicken to counter tops, faucet handles, refrigerators, cupboards, doors, oven handles, and condiment containers.
      • Cogan T.A.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Humphrey T.J.
      The Effectiveness of Hygiene Procedures for Prevention of Cross Contamination from Chicken Carcasses in the Domestic Kitchen.
      Cross contamination is not limited to the kitchen. Surfaces and hands can become contaminated during simple everyday tasks such as taking out the trash, handling soiled laundry, or grooming the family pet. As discussed previously, these risks are even greater when illness is already present in the home.
      Drying alone is not sufficient to eliminate contaminating organisms. Although drying reduces the number of organisms on clean, laminate surfaces, large numbers of bacteria have been found on contaminated surfaces as many as 24 to 48 hours after drying.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      The Survival and Transfer of Microbial Contamination via Cloths, Hands and Utensils.
      Furthermore, large numbers of organisms are found on hands after they touch contaminated surfaces.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      The Survival and Transfer of Microbial Contamination via Cloths, Hands and Utensils.
      Since plain soaps or detergents do not necessarily kill microorganisms, cleaning contaminated surfaces using a dishcloth and detergent or soap and water may actually spread microbes.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Scott E.
      A Risk Assessment Approach to Use of Disinfectants in the Community.
      • Cogan T.A.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Humphrey T.J.
      The Effectiveness of Hygiene Procedures for Prevention of Cross Contamination from Chicken Carcasses in the Domestic Kitchen.
      Poor Hygiene Practices Caught on Tape
      Studies of Australian and U.S. home kitchens caught many disease-spreading practices on videotape.
      • Jay L.S.
      • Comar D.
      • Govenlock L.D.
      A Video Study of Australian Domestic Food-Handling Practices,.

      J. Andersen, Food Safety Mistakes Caught on Tape (Associated Press /Food and Drug Administration, 2000), accessed June 21, 2000 at http://ipn.intelihealth.com/ipn/ihtIPN.

      • Hansen K.
      • Anderson J.
      • Shuster T.
      • Volk A.
      • Levy A.
      A Camera's View of Consumer Food-Safety Behavior.
      The most common unhygienic practices included:
      • infrequent and poor handwashing, especially prior to preparing meals
      • pets in the kitchen
      • hand contact with the face, mouth, nose, and hair during food preparation
      • inadequate or no attempt to clean surfaces during food preparation
      • use of the same towel for hands, dishes, floors, and covering food!
      Consistent with these observations, 25% of respondents to telephone surveys in Australia did not recognize handwashing as important in reducing cross contamination and foodborne illness.
      • Jay L.S.
      • Comar D.
      • Govenlock L.D.
      A National Australian Food Safety Telephone Survey.
      Observations that meats are often improperly stored, not promptly refrigerated, and undercooked in the home
      • Jay L.S.
      • Comar D.
      • Govenlock L.D.
      A Video Study of Australian Domestic Food-Handling Practices,.

      J. Andersen, Food Safety Mistakes Caught on Tape (Associated Press /Food and Drug Administration, 2000), accessed June 21, 2000 at http://ipn.intelihealth.com/ipn/ihtIPN.

      further emphasize the importance of proper management of these potential reservoirs of microbes through good hygiene. Poor storage practices - e.g., putting meats on higher refrigerator shelves than produce used in uncooked salads - can lead to transfer of bacteria if the meat drips onto the produce. Bacteria that grew on the meat due to improper storage and handling were not often killed during preparation.

      Sponges/Dishcloths

      Of the many sites of bacterial contamination that can be examined in home kitchens, sponges and dishcloths have the highest bacterial densities.
      • Rusin P.
      • Orosz-Coughlin P.
      • Gerba C.
      Reduction of Fecal Coliform, Coliform and Heterotrophic Plate Count Bacteria in the Household Kitchen and Bathroom by Disinfection with Hypochlorite Cleaners.
      For example, after wringing out a household sponge, a hundred thousand to a million bacteria can be left on your hands.

      P. Rusin, S. Maxwell, and C. Gerba, Comparative Transfer Efficiency of Bacteria and Viruses from Common Fomites to Hands and from the Hand to the Lip, Proceedings of the 100th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, Los Angeles: American Society for Microbiology, 2000, accessed May 25, 2000, at http://www.asmusa.org/pcsrc/gm2000/10004.html.

      Microorganisms can be picked up from contaminated surfaces onto sponges and dishtowels, resulting in significant contamination of other kitchen areas and hands when they are used again for cleaning,
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      The Survival and Transfer of Microbial Contamination via Cloths, Hands and Utensils.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Barlow C.G.
      An Investigation of Microbial Contamination in the Home.
      • Speirs J.P.
      • Anderton A.
      • Anderson J.G.
      A Study of the Microbial Content of the Domestic Kitchen.
      • Enriquez C.
      • Enriquez-Gordillo R.
      • Kennedy D.
      • Gerba C.
      Bacteriological Survey of Used Cellulose Sponges and Cotton Dishcloths from Domestic Kitchens.
      • Humphrey T.J.
      • Martin K.W.
      • Slader J.
      • Durham K.
      Campylobacter spp the Kitchen: Spread and Persistence.
      including pathogenic organisms.
      • Cogan T.A.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Humphrey T.J.
      The Effectiveness of Hygiene Procedures for Prevention of Cross Contamination from Chicken Carcasses in the Domestic Kitchen.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Barlow C.G.
      An Investigation of Microbial Contamination in the Home.
      • Humphrey T.J.
      • Martin K.W.
      • Slader J.
      • Durham K.
      Campylobacter spp the Kitchen: Spread and Persistence.
      Unfortunately, use of the same cloth for multiple purposes is a common practice in many homes.
      • Jay L.S.
      • Comar D.
      • Govenlock L.D.
      A Video Study of Australian Domestic Food-Handling Practices,.
      • Scott E.
      Hygiene Issues in the Home.
      • Rusin P.
      • Orosz-Coughlin P.
      • Gerba C.
      Reduction of Fecal Coliform, Coliform and Heterotrophic Plate Count Bacteria in the Household Kitchen and Bathroom by Disinfection with Hypochlorite Cleaners.
      • Speirs J.P.
      • Anderton A.
      • Anderson J.G.
      A Study of the Microbial Content of the Domestic Kitchen.
      And you don't have to have visible illness in the home in order to be spreading infectious microorganisms. For example, it has been found that active cases of Salmonella infection don't have to exist in the home for Salmonella to be on dishcloths.
      • Humphrey T.
      Can Consumers Prevent the Spread of Foodborne Pathogens in Domestic Kitchens? Proceedings of Euroconference.
      Drying alone is not sufficient to eliminate microorganisms from contaminating dishcloths. Large numbers of bacteria have been found on soiled cloths as many as 24 to 48 hours after drying.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      The Survival and Transfer of Microbial Contamination via Cloths, Hands and Utensils.
      Also, large numbers of microorganisms have been found on hands after they touched these contaminated dishcloths.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      The Survival and Transfer of Microbial Contamination via Cloths, Hands and Utensils.
      A study of 140 cellulose sponges and 56 cotton dishcloths from households in four U.S. cities found:
      • Enriquez C.
      • Enriquez-Gordillo R.
      • Kennedy D.
      • Gerba C.
      Bacteriological Survey of Used Cellulose Sponges and Cotton Dishcloths from Domestic Kitchens.
      • 13 different bacterial species were present.
      • Pseudomonads were the most commonly isolated group.
      • Salmonella was isolated from 15% of the sponges and 14% of the cloths.

      Dishwashing

      Pathogenic bacteria in dishwashing water can be transferred to the dishes being cleaned.
      • Humphrey T.
      Can Consumers Prevent the Spread of Foodborne Pathogens in Domestic Kitchens? Proceedings of Euroconference.
      • Humphrey T.J.
      • Martin K.W.
      • Slader J.
      • Durham K.
      Campylobacter spp the Kitchen: Spread and Persistence.
      In dishwashing, the temperature of the dishwashing water can influence the survival of these bacteria.
      • Humphrey T.
      Can Consumers Prevent the Spread of Foodborne Pathogens in Domestic Kitchens? Proceedings of Euroconference.
      For dishes washed by hand, the dishwashing water temperature is often below 122° F (50° C) at the start and will continue to drop during the dishwashing process. This temperature isn't high enough to destroy most microorganisms. Washing dishes in detergent and water is only effective in removing bacteria if followed by a rinsing step.
      • Cogan T.A.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Humphrey T.J.
      The Effectiveness of Hygiene Procedures for Prevention of Cross Contamination from Chicken Carcasses in the Domestic Kitchen.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Barlow C.G.
      Evaluation of Disinfectants in the Domestic Environment Under In Use Conditions.

      Microbes in the Bathroom

      Like the kitchen, the bathroom can be a reservoir of large numbers of microorganisms—again, particularly in wet areas. For example, in homes where a family member had salmonellosis, four out of six toilets tested positive for Salmonella under the recess of the toilet bowl rim. This area is difficult to reach with household toilet cleaners. In one toilet, Salmonella was still present four weeks after the infection, despite the use of cleaners. After the toilet was artificially contaminated, flushing it led to contamination of the toilet seat and lid. In fact, in one instance, Salmonella was isolated from an air sample taken after flushing.
      • Barker J.
      • Bloomfield E.S.
      Survival of Salmonella in Bathrooms and Toilets in Domestic Homes Following Salmonellosis.
      Examination of hand towels and bathroom floors in homes found 44% and 20% contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus, respectively.
      • Finch J.E.
      • Prince J.
      • Hawksworth M.
      A Bacteriological Survey of the Domestic Environment.

      Microbes in the Laundry

      Today's common laundering practices can allow bacteria to remain in laundered items after standard washing and rinsing.
      While the kitchen and the bathroom are logical places for introducing and spreading pathogens, the clothes washing machine seems a less likely place for their growth and spread. However, changes in laundering practices over the years have increased the potential for disease transmission via the washing machine.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      The Survival and Transfer of Microbial Contamination via Cloths, Hands and Utensils.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Barlow C.G.
      An Investigation of Microbial Contamination in the Home.
      • Speirs J.P.
      • Anderton A.
      • Anderson J.G.
      A Study of the Microbial Content of the Domestic Kitchen.
      • Sattar S.A.
      • Tetro J.
      • Springthorpe V.S.
      Impact of Changing Societal Trends on the Spread of Infections in American and Canadian Homes.
      Today's common laundering practices can allow bacteria to remain in laundered items after standard washing and rinsing. For example:
      • Scott E.
      Hygiene Issues in the Home.
      • Sattar S.A.
      • Tetro J.
      • Springthorpe V.S.
      Impact of Changing Societal Trends on the Spread of Infections in American and Canadian Homes.
      • Smaller volumes of water are used for washing, leading to higher concentrations of microorganisms in wash waters.
      • Fewer bacteria are killed at the lower wash water temperatures used today.
      • Fewer people use bleach.
      • People rarely hang their clothes and linens outside, where the sunlight can aid in denaturing many microbes, although prolonged drying at high temperatures is effective in reducing the numbers of bacteria.
      • Ironing, which causes steam to penetrate and reduce microbes in the fabric, has become less common.
      Microbes can survive and multiply in damp clothes that have been washed in detergent and stored at room temperature.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield E.S.
      Investigations of the Effectiveness of Detergent Washing, Drying and Chemical Disinfection on Contamination of Cleaning Cloths.
      And it's not just items that are contaminated with bacteria before a wash, such as under- wear or dishcloths that are contaminated after washing. Even sterile clothing and bed linens placed in a wash ,with fabric contaminated with bacteria and viruses themselves become contaminated by the transfer of the microbes into the wash water and then onto the other fabrics in the load.
      • Gerba C.
      • Watson S.
      • Kennedy D.
      Cross Contamination and Survival of Enteric Pathogens in Laundry, Proceedings of Euroconference.
      Thus, the greatest concern during the laundering and drying process is contamination of the hands resulting from the handling of not just soiled laundry, but also washed laundry. The latter can occur when wet laundry is transferred from washing machines to dryers.
      Besides contaminating other laundry in a wash load, microorganisms in the wash leave the washing machine contaminated, leading to subsequent loads of laundry becoming contaminated.
      • Gerba C.
      • Watson S.
      • Kennedy D.
      Cross Contamination and Survival of Enteric Pathogens in Laundry, Proceedings of Euroconference.
      The lack of bleach use in communal laundry facilities has been correlated with the spread of microbes and higher rates of infectious disease symptoms among household members.
      • Larson E.
      • Duarte C.G.
      Home Hygiene Practices and Infectious Disease Symptoms Among Household Members.
      Drying after washing and rinsing provides the greatest reduction in bacteria and viruses.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield E.S.
      Investigations of the Effectiveness of Detergent Washing, Drying and Chemical Disinfection on Contamination of Cleaning Cloths.
      • Gerba C.
      • Watson S.
      • Kennedy D.
      Cross Contamination and Survival of Enteric Pathogens in Laundry, Proceedings of Euroconference.
      For reference, a typical home dryer reaches a temperature ranging from 110° F (43° C) on a low setting to 185° F (85° C) on a high setting.

      Maytag Corporation, personal communication, 2001.

      For individual dryers, you can check the dryer's use and care manual or call the manufacturer's 800 number to learn their temperature ranges.
      Microbial Survival During Laundering
      In a study to evaluate the survival of bacteria and intestinal viruses during washing and drying in U.S. homes, sterile cotton swabs were inoculated with Mycobacterium fortuitum (M. fortuitum), Salmonella Typhimurium, Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, rotavirus SA1, hepatitis A virus, and adenovirus type 40. The contaminated swabs were then added to sterile cotton underwear, T-shirts, and a pillowcase that contained an organic load typical of home laundry. The results follow:
      • Gerba C.
      • Watson S.
      • Kennedy D.
      Cross Contamination and Survival of Enteric Pathogens in Laundry, Proceedings of Euroconference.
      • Wash and rinse cycles alone reduced intestinal viruses in the laundry by 87 to 98% and bacteria by >99%.
      • During the drying cycle, survival of viruses exceeded survival of bacteria.
      • Drying was most effective for reducing (in decreasing order) S. typhimurium, S. aureus, and M. fortuitum.
      • Detectable levels of E. coli were not found after drying. Together, washing and drying reduced all bacteria by at least 99.99%, adenovirus type 40 by 99.91%, hepatitis A virus by 99.8% and rotavirus by 98.6%.
      • The test organisms contaminated other laundry in the machine, as well as the washing machine itself, which led to the contamination of subsequent loads of laundry.

      Transfer of Microbes Elsewhere Around the Home

      Other surfaces around the home can be sites of bacterial and viral transfer. Infection from the transfer of bacteria and viruses from common household articles to the hands is possible from daily contact with these objects.

      Rusin P, Gerba C and Maxwell S. Studies Show that Some Diseases Could Easily Be Transmitted from Common Articles in the Home and Community, Proceedings of the 100th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, Los Angeles: American Society for Microbiology, 2000, accessed May 25, 2000, at http://www.asmusa.org/pcsrc/gm2000/10004.html.

      • Rheinbaben F.
      • Schunemann S.
      • Gross T.
      • Wolff M.H.
      Transmission of Viruses via Contact in a Household Setting: Experiments Using Bacteriophage Straight phiX174 as a Model Virus.
      Transmission from door handles, telephone receivers, faucet handles, and sponges has been shown to occur, with transfer to hands from hard, nonporous surfaces being highest.

      P. Rusin, S. Maxwell, and C. Gerba, Comparative Transfer Efficiency of Bacteria and Viruses from Common Fomites to Hands and from the Hand to the Lip, Proceedings of the 100th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology, Los Angeles: American Society for Microbiology, 2000, accessed May 25, 2000, at http://www.asmusa.org/pcsrc/gm2000/10004.html.

      Subsequent transmission to other people can occur from hands contaminated this way.
      • Rheinbaben F.
      • Schunemann S.
      • Gross T.
      • Wolff M.H.
      Transmission of Viruses via Contact in a Household Setting: Experiments Using Bacteriophage Straight phiX174 as a Model Virus.

      Controlling Infectious Microbes in the Home

      In the home, the first line of defense against infectious disease is cleaning and disinfecting.
      Cleaning is the mechanical removal of dirt and soil from an object or area. Detergents and water are the preferred products for cleaning. Under normal conditions, cleaning is adequate for most households. However, in some circumstances, such as illness in the family or handling of potentially contaminated food, disinfection may be necessary.
      Disinfection is the chemical inactivation or killing of microbes. Products containing substances such as alcohol, sodium hypochlorite bleach, quaternary ammonium compounds, and phenolics, can be disinfectants, depending on the formulation and use of the product. In many countries, government authorities must approve ingredients as antimicrobial agents and approve product formulations containing an approved ingredient as being efficacious against specific microbes or microbes in general.
      Disinfectant and Sanitizer Products in the U.S.
      In the U.S., the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approves all antimicrobial ingredients used in products for inanimate objects (e.g., hard surfaces, fabrics) based on their efficacy in reducing microbes and on their safety. The agency also requires companies to show the effectiveness of their finished products in order to label them as “disinfectants” or “sanitizers.” Be sure to look for those words when buying disinfectants, sanitizers, or cleaning products that disinfect. Many other countries have similar approval and labeling requirements.

      Cleaning to Remove Bacteria and Viruses

      The benefit from removing bacteria and viruses increases as follows: doing nothing < rinsing with water < washing with a soap or cleaner < washing with an antimicrobial product.
      It is important to recognize that washing is only one step in the whole process. Our hands can be filthy but not much of a problem if we don't touch our eyes or mouths, or don't touch food just before eating it. However, we unconsciously do all of these things on a regular basis. Therefore, we need to frequently wash our hands and clean surfaces, such as counter tops, faucet handles, and handles on doors, cabinets, and refrigerators. Also, since we cannot see bacteria or viruses, it is important that we thoroughly clean surfaces immediately after they are contaminated—otherwise someone else will unknowingly contact the contaminated surface or we'll forget where the mess is.

      Disinfecting to Inactivate Bacteria and Viruses

      Bacterial Inactivation

      Detergent with hot water alone produces no overall reduction at bacterial sites in the kitchen, bath, and toilet.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Barlow C.G.
      Evaluation of Disinfectants in the Domestic Environment Under In Use Conditions.
      Rather, contamination can increase due to mechanical breakup of microbe aggregates and subsequent spreading of bacterial cells. Chemical disinfectants (e.g., sodium hypochlorite, phenolic-based disinfectant products) can substantially reduce bacterial contamination in the home, and maintain low levels for three to six hours.
      Maximizing Product Benefits Through Proper Use
      Disinfecting in the home is dependent on following the directions for use, not just on the contents of the product itself. During a 30-week study in Arizona, 14 homes were supplied with various disinfectant products, without specific instructions on how to use the products. Microbiological contamination of kitchen and bathroom sites in each home was studied.
      Subsequently, most of the disinfectants were removed, specific disinfection products were introduced, and a cleaning schedule was established. While the greatest reductions in coliform bacteria occurred after the products were initially supplied, the introduction of the cleaning schedule led to even greater reductions in microbes in the kitchen and bathroom sites.
      • Rusin P.
      • Orosz-Coughlin P.
      • Gerba C.
      Reduction of Faecal Coliform, Coliform and Heterotrophic Plate Count Bacteria in the Household Kitchen and Bathroom by Disinfection with Hypochlorite Cleaners.
      These results are consistent with the findings of another study, which demonstrated that disinfectants reduced contamination more when used in a timely manner after contamination by food or hands.
      • Josephson K.L.
      • Rubino J.R.
      • Pepper I.L.
      Characterization and Quantification of Bacterial Pathogens and Indicator Organisms in Household Kitchens With and Without the Use of a Disinfectant Cleaner.

      Bacterial Inactivation: Room-by-Room

      This section examines rooms in the home and specific areas in them, indicating opportunities for bacterial inactivation.

      The Kitchen

      So much activity and food preparation takes place in the kitchen that it is a virtual hot spot for bacterial growth and spread. When counter tops, cutting boards, and other kitchen surfaces are not properly cleaned and/or disinfected, microbes survive and proliferate.
      • de Wit J.C.
      • Broekhuizen G.
      • Kampelmacher E.H.
      Cross Contamination During the Preparation of Frozen Chickens in the Kitchen.
      Kitchen studies frequently follow Gram negative bacteria like Enterobacteria, Campylobacter, and Salmonella, as these bacteria are sometimes found as natural contaminants on foods. If they are not eliminated during cooking, they can cause severe food poisoning.

      Sponges and Dishcloths

      Sponges and dishcloths used with hypochlorite disinfection products have significantly lower bacterial contamination.
      • Rusin P.
      • Orosz-Coughlin P.
      • Gerba C.
      Reduction of Fecal Coliform, Coliform and Heterotrophic Plate Count Bacteria in the Household Kitchen and Bathroom by Disinfection with Hypochlorite Cleaners.

      Food Preparation and Other Surfaces

      Using soap and water to clean home surfaces can actually increase contamination if not followed by rinsing.
      Using soap and water to clean home surfaces can actually increase contamination if not followed by rinsing.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Barlow C.G.
      Evaluation of Disinfectants in the Domestic Environment Under In Use Conditions.
      This suggests that when rinsing is impractical or not feasible, cleaning alone may be insufficient and disinfection may be necessary.
      Cleaning with detergent and hot water alone does not significantly reduce Campylobacter and Salmonella from contaminated kitchen areas. However, when cleaning is supplemented with sodium hypochlorite bleach there is a significant reduction in the number of bacteria on contaminated sites, such as counter tops and faucet or refrigerator handles.
      • Rusin P.
      • Orosz-Coughlin P.
      • Gerba C.
      Reduction of Fecal Coliform, Coliform and Heterotrophic Plate Count Bacteria in the Household Kitchen and Bathroom by Disinfection with Hypochlorite Cleaners.
      • Cogan T.A.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Humphrey T.J.
      The Effectiveness of Hygiene Procedures for Prevention of Cross Contamination from Chicken Carcasses in the Domestic Kitchen.
      Sodium hypochlorite bleach has been shown to be effective at inactivating a wide range of pathogenic bacteria.
      • Rusin P.
      • Orosz-Coughlin P.
      • Gerba C.
      Reduction of Faecal Coliform, Coliform and Heterotrophic Plate Count Bacteria in the Household Kitchen and Bathroom by Disinfection with Hypochlorite Cleaners.
      • Hall C.B.
      • Douglas R.G.
      Modes of Transmission of Respiratory Syncytial Virus.
      • Parnes C.
      Efficacy of Sodium Hypochlorite Bleach and 'Alternative' Products in Preventing Transfer of Bacteria To and From Inanimate Surfaces.
      • Rutala W.A.
      • Cole E.C.
      • Thomann C.A.
      • Weber D.J.
      Stability and Bactericidal Activity of Chlorine Solutions.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Arthur M.
      • Looney E.
      • Begun K.
      • Patel H.
      Comparative Testing of Disinfectant and Antiseptic Products Using Proposed European Suspension Testing Methods.
      • Berman D.
      • Rice E.W.
      • Hoff J.C.
      Inactivation of Particle-Associated Coliforms by Chlorine and Monochloramine.
      • Skaliy P.
      • Thompson T.A.
      • Gorman G.W.
      • Morris G.K.
      • McEachern H.V.
      • Mackel D.C.
      Laboratory Studies of Disinfectants Against Legionella Pneumophila.
      Treating cutting boards with a kitchen disinfectant after preparing chicken contaminated with bacteria reduces the spread of bacteria to almost undetectable levels.
      • Zhao P.
      • Zhao T.
      • Doyle M.P.
      • Rubino J.R.
      • Meng J.
      Development of a Model for Evaluation of Microbial Cross Contamination in the Kitchen.
      Use of an antibacterial kitchen cleaner soon after contamination of surfaces by contact with food or hands results in significantly greater reductions in surface contamination, including fecal coliforms, compared to delayed or nonuse of the product.
      • Josephson K.L.
      • Rubino J.R.
      • Pepper I.L.
      Characterization and Quantification of Bacterial Pathogens and Indicator Organisms in Household Kitchens With and Without the Use of a Disinfectant Cleaner.
      The combined use of an antibacterial kitchen cleaner and an alcohol hand gel has been shown to reduce cross contamination of E. aerogenes from cutting boards and hands and, subsequently, to salad vegetables during simulated meal preparations.
      • Zhao P.
      • Zhao T.
      • Doyle M.P.
      • Rubino J.R.
      • Meng J.
      Development of a Model for Evaluation of Microbial Cross Contamination in the Kitchen.
      Disinfection in conjunction with the use of disposable paper towels is reported to be the best procedure for cleaning surfaces contaminated by raw meat juices.

      Gangar V, Meyers E, Roering A, Johnson H, Curiale M and Michaels B. The Dynamics of Surface Cleaning and Sanitization, in Preventing Infectious Intestinal Disease in the Domestic Setting: A Shared Responsiblity, a joint conference by the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene and the Public Health Laboratory Service, London: Central Public Health Laboratory, 2000, accessed May 15, 2001, at http://www.ifh-homehygiene.org/infect/inf00.htm.

      Food Chemicals and Non-antibacterial Products vs. Commercial Disinfecting Products
      There have been proponents for using food chemicals and non-antibacterial products in place of commercially prepared products to disinfect bacteria on surfaces in the home. The effectiveness of a variety of homemade cleaning solutions and commercially prepared products against several intestinal bacterial pathogens has been studied.
      After both short (30-second) and long (5-minute) exposures, commercial products were found to be more effective against pathogenic organisms than two food products commonly found in the home—vinegar and baking soda.
      • Rutala W.A.
      • Barbee S.L.
      • Aguiar N.C.
      • Sobsey M.D.
      • Weber D.J.
      Antimicrobial Activity of Home Disinfectants and Natural Products Against Potential Human Pathogens.
      Commercial bleach and an antibacterial kitchen cleaner were much more effective at reducing pathogenic microorganisms than either vinegar or baking soda. A disinfectant spray and hard surface cleaner also produced consistently higher reductions, though not as great. The commercial disinfectant products inactivated (killed) both antibiotic-susceptible and -resistant bacteria. While vinegar had very little effect after short exposure time, it had activity similar to the commercial products against these organisms after a long (5-minute) exposure.
      The Gram positive bacterium Staphylococcus aureus is a frequent skin contaminant that can cause severe food poisoning if it proliferates on food. In a study of common kitchen disinfectants, only hypochlorite bleach effectively inactivated S. aureus, Salmonella typhi, and E. coli. Concentrated ammonia and vinegar were effective against S. typhi and E. coli. Borax, ammonia, baking soda, vinegar, or dishwashing detergent showed no antimicrobial activity against S. aureus.
      • Parnes C.
      Efficacy of Sodium Hypochlorite Bleach and 'Alternative' Products in Preventing Transfer of Bacteria To and From Inanimate Surfaces.

      In the Bathroom

      In the bathroom, splashing and aerosol droplets are responsible for transferring contamination from toilets and sinks to surrounding areas in the bathroom. Using a chlorine bleach-based, in-toilet block effectively reduces the level of contamination in the toilet. The bleach, however, doesn't affect surrounding areas. This suggests that direct shedding of skin or hand contact can contaminate the toilet seat, handle, and floor.
      • Scott E.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      A Bacteriological Investigation of the Effectiveness of Cleaning and Disinfection Procedures for Toilet Hygiene.

      In the Laundry

      Reductions in infection risk have been associated with the use of hot water and bleach during laundering.
      • Larson E.L.
      • Lin S.X.
      • Gomez-Pichardo C.
      • Della-Latta P.
      Effect of Antibacterial Home Cleaning and Handwashing Products on Infectious Disease Symptoms.
      Warmer washing temperatures, such as 131° F (55° C), are effective in reducing bacterial levels.
      • Jaska J.M.
      • Fredell D.L.
      Impact of Detergent Systems on Bacterial Survival on Laundered Fabrics.
      • Legnani P.
      • Leoni E.
      Factors Affecting the Bacteriological Contamination of Commercial Washing Machines.
      Colder washing temperatures may increase the cross contamination rate of articles that are washed together.
      • Legnani P.
      • Leoni E.
      Factors Affecting the Bacteriological Contamination of Commercial Washing Machines.
      Sodium hypochlorite bleach is effective in reducing bacterial counts when either hot or cold water is used.
      • Smith J.
      • Neil K.
      • Davidson C.
      • Davidson R.
      Effect of Water Temperature on Bacterial Killing in Laundry.
      • Christian R.
      • Manchester J.
      • Mellor M.
      Bacteriological Quality of Fabrics Washed at Lower-than-Standard Temperatures in a Hospital Laundry Facility.
      Therefore, attaining maximal reduction in bacteria in both the washing machine and fabrics depends on the use of bleach and water temperature.
      • Legnani P.
      • Leoni E.
      Factors Affecting the Bacteriological Contamination of Commercial Washing Machines.
      • Smith J.
      • Neil K.
      • Davidson C.
      • Davidson R.
      Effect of Water Temperature on Bacterial Killing in Laundry.
      • Christian R.
      • Manchester J.
      • Mellor M.
      Bacteriological Quality of Fabrics Washed at Lower-than-Standard Temperatures in a Hospital Laundry Facility.
      • Belkin N.
      Aseptics and Aesthetics of Chlorine Bleach: Can Its Use in Laundering Be Safely Abandoned?.
      However, relying on wash water temperatures to achieve meaningful reductions in bacteria is impractical in the U.S., since water heaters are typically set at 120° F (48° C).

      Viral Inactivation

      A range of disinfectants has been shown to be capable of inactivating viruses.
      • Barker J.
      • Stevens D.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      Spread and Prevention of Some Common Viral Infections in Community Facilities and Domestic Homes.
      For example, sodium hypochlorite bleach has been shown to inactivate a wide range of viruses.
      • Berman D.
      • Rice E.W.
      • Hoff J.C.
      Inactivation of Particle-Associated Coliforms by Chlorine and Monochloramine.
      • Skaliy P.
      • Thompson T.A.
      • Gorman G.W.
      • Morris G.K.
      • McEachern H.V.
      • Mackel D.C.
      Laboratory Studies of Disinfectants Against Legionella Pneumophila.
      • Hoffler U.
      • Gloor M.
      • Peters G.
      • Ko H.L.
      • Brautigan A.
      • Thurn A.
      • Pulverer G.
      Qualitative and Quantitative Investigations on the Resident Bacterial Skin Flora in Healthy Persons and in the Non-Affected Skin of Patients with Seborrheic Eczema.
      • Sattar S.A.
      • Springthorpe V.S.
      • Karim Y.
      • Loro P.
      Chemical Disinfection of Non-Porous Inanimate Surfaces Experimentally Contaminated with Four Human Pathogenic Viruses.
      • Churn C.C.
      • Bates R.C.
      • Boardman G.D.
      Mechanism of Chlorine Inactivation of DNA-Containing Parvovirus H-1.
      • Sellers R.F.
      The Inactivation of Foot-and-Mouth Disease Virus by Chemicals and Disinfectants.
      • Childs J.E.
      • Kaufmann A.F.
      • Peters C.J.
      • Ehrenberg R.L.
      Hantavirus Infection—Southwestern United States: Interim Recommendations for Risk Reduction, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
      • Lloyd-Evans N.
      • Springthorpe V.S.
      • Sattar S.A.
      Chemical Disinfection of Human Rotavirus-Contaminated Inanimate Surfaces.
      • Rutala W.A.
      • Weber D.J.
      Uses of Inorganic Hypochlorite (bleach) in Health- Care Facility.
      • Weber D.J.
      • Barbee S.L.
      • Sobsey M.D.
      • Rutala W.A.
      The Effect of Blood on the Antiviral Activity of Sodium Hypochlorite, a Phenolic, and a Quaternary Ammonium Compound.
      • Yang C.Y.
      Comparative Studies on the Detoxification of Aflatoxins by Sodium Hypochlorite and Commercial Bleaches.
      • Best M.
      • Springthorpe V.S.
      • Sattar S.A.
      Feasibility of a Combined Carrier Test for Disinfectants: Studies with a Mixture of Five Types of Microorganisms.
      • Whitmore T.N.
      • Denny S.
      The Effect of Disinfectants on a Geosmin- Producing Strain of Streptomyces Griseus.
      Other studies have gone on to show significant decreases in viral transfer from surfaces to fingers,
      • Sattar S.A.
      • Jacobsen H.
      • Rahman H.
      • Cusack T.M.
      • Rubino J.R.
      Interruption of Rotavirus Spread Through Chemical Disinfection.
      • Sattar S.A.
      • Jacobsen H.H.
      • Springthorpe V.S.
      • Cusack T.M.
      • Rubino J.R.
      Chemical Disinfection to Interrupt Transfer of Rhinovirus Type 14 from Environmental Surfaces to Hands.
      and interrupting infections rates via oral transfer from surfaces due to the use of disinfecting products.
      • Ward R.L.
      • Bernstein D.I.
      • Knowlton D.R.
      • Sherwood J.R.
      • Young E.C.
      • Cusack T.M.
      • Rubino J.R.
      • Schiff G.M.
      Prevention of Surface-to-Human Transmission of Rotaviruses by Treatment with Disinfectant Spray.
      A review of transmission and occurrence of viral infections in the home, as well as in community settings, is available elsewhere.
      • Barker J.
      • Stevens D.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      Spread and Prevention of Some Common Viral Infections in Community Facilities and Domestic Homes.
      Effect of Disinfecting Agents on Viral Transfer
      The four disinfecting agents shown in Figure 4–4 have been evaluated for their ability to prevent the transfer of human viruses from stainless steel disks to the fingers of volunteers as compared to tap water.
      • Sattar S.A.
      • Jacobsen H.
      • Rahman H.
      • Cusack T.M.
      • Rubino J.R.
      Interruption of Rotavirus Spread Through Chemical Disinfection.
      The figure presents the reduction of viruses on the surface of the disks resulting from the various treatments.
      The presence of rotavirus was not detected on fingers that had contact with disks treated with disinfectant spray, bleach, and the phenolic-based product, but contact of the disks treated with tap water or quaternary ammonium-based product resulted in the transfer of 5.6% and 7.6% of the residual virus, respectively.
      • Sattar S.A.
      • Jacobsen H.
      • Rahman H.
      • Cusack T.M.
      • Rubino J.R.
      Interruption of Rotavirus Spread Through Chemical Disinfection.
      The rhinovirus was not detected on the fingers of volunteers who had contact with the disks treated with the spray or bleach. Transfer of 3.3% and 8.4% of the residual viruses occurred from disks treated with the phenolic product and the quaternary ammonium product, respectively.
      • Sattar S.A.
      • Jacobsen H.H.
      • Springthorpe V.S.
      • Cusack T.M.
      • Rubino J.R.
      Chemical Disinfection to Interrupt Transfer of Rhinovirus Type 14 from Environmental Surfaces to Hands.
      A particularly impressive study was one in which eight volunteers licked dried human rotavirus that had not been treated with anything, and all became infected. In an extension of this study, an alcohol and phenolic-based disinfectant spray applied to the virus interrupted the transfer of the virus; none of the 14 volunteers who licked the spray-treated virus became infected, whereas 13 out of 14 who licked the unsprayed virus became infected.
      • Ward R.L.
      • Bernstein D.I.
      • Knowlton D.R.
      • Sherwood J.R.
      • Young E.C.
      • Cusack T.M.
      • Rubino J.R.
      • Schiff G.M.
      Prevention of Surface-to-Human Transmission of Rotaviruses by Treatment with Disinfectant Spray.
      This body of information suggests that a product containing an ingredient with disinfectant properties, such as alcohol, bleach, or a phenolic, may be very useful for home use if a household member is ill with an infectious disease or highly susceptible to infectious disease.

      Hand Hygiene: A Timeless Defense Against Infection

      Cleaning hands is very important in preventing infection. For example, a major recent study has found that handwashing with soap prevents diarrhea and acute lower respiratory tract infections, which are the leading causes of childhood death globally. Handwashing with daily bathing was also shown to prevent impetigo.
      • Luby S.P.
      • Agboatwalla M.
      • Feikin D.R.
      • Painter J.
      • Billhimer W.
      • Altaf A.
      • Hoekstra R.M.
      Effect of Handwashing on Child Health: A Randomised Controlled Trial.
      But how often does the average person wash his/her hands? Public awareness about the importance of personal hygiene has increased due to highly publicized and serious foodborne illness outbreaks. These incidents have raised questions about food safety and the hygienic practices (particularly handwashing) of food handlers. The concern extends to homemakers, child-care providers, educators, sales personnel, and those who have physical contact with the public. Despite public awareness, the average person simply doesn't wash his/her hands frequently enough, nor for a long enough time. For example, a handwashing study conducted by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) found that 95% of people say they wash their hands after using a public restroom, but only 67% of people actually do so.

      American Society for Microbiology, America's Dirty Little Secret — Our Hands, Clean Hands Campaign, 2000, accessed May 15, 2001 at http://www.washup.org/page03.htm.

      • American Society for Microbiology
      ASM Inaugurates Nationwide Public Education Effort.
      What Hand Hygiene Studies Show
      In 2000, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) conducted a telephone survey of more than 7,000 people in the U.S.

      American Society for Microbiology, America's Dirty Little Secret — Our Hands, Clean Hands Campaign, 2000, accessed May 15, 2001 at http://www.washup.org/page03.htm.

      The results were:
      • 81% of the respondents claimed to wash their hands prior to handling or eating food.
      • 48% reported that they do not wash their hands after petting an animal.
      • 33% reported that they do not wash their hands after coughing or sneezing.
      • 22% reported that they do not wash their hands after handling money.
      Good hand hygiene practices lead to reduced risk of infection.
      • Mead P.S.
      • Finelli L.
      • Lambert-Fair M.A.
      • Champ D.
      • Townes J.
      • Hutwagner L.
      • Barrett T.
      • Spitalny K.
      • Mintz E.
      Risk Factors for Sporadic Infection with Escherichia Coli O157:H7.
      • Larson E.
      A Causal Link Between Handwashing and Risk of Infection? Examination of the Evidence.
      • Bryan J.L.
      • Cohran J.
      • Larson E.L.
      Handwashing: A Ritual Revisited.
      The major benefits of hand hygiene for the general public are the removal of infectious agents found on hands and spread by the fecal-oral route, from the respiratory tract, and from contaminated food.
      • Cogan T.A.
      • Bloomfield S.F.
      • Humphrey T.J.
      The Effectiveness of Hygiene Procedures for Prevention of Cross Contamination from Chicken Carcasses in the Domestic Kitchen.
      • Gwaltney J.M.
      • Moskalski P.B.
      • Hendley J.O.
      Hand-to-Hand Transmission of Rhinovirus Colds.
      • Kimel L.S.
      Handwashing Education Can Decrease Illness Absenteeism.
      Handwashing is necessary before and/or after behaviors that are associated with microbial contamination, especially using the toilet, diapering, and preparing or eating food. In one study, it was estimated that adequate handwashing by food preparers in the home could have prevented 34% of E. coli O157:H7 infections in the study population.
      • Mead P.S.
      • Finelli L.
      • Lambert-Fair M.A.
      • Champ D.
      • Townes J.
      • Hutwagner L.
      • Barrett T.
      • Spitalny K.
      • Mintz E.
      Risk Factors for Sporadic Infection with Escherichia Coli O157:H7.
      For cleaning hands, there are generally three types of products available:
      • 1.
        Plain Soaps
      Generally, plain soaps do not kill microorganisms, but rather wash them off with the soap, with the help of friction and rubbing. As a result, the majority of microorganisms picked up in daily life are removed. Handwashing with plain soap and water for 15 seconds reduces skin bacterial counts by 50 to 90%, and washing for 30 seconds reduces counts by 90 to 99%.
      • Rotter M.
      Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control.
      For general home use—when household members are healthy—plain soaps are adequate for removing microbes.
      • Larson E.L.
      APIC Guideline for Handwashing and Hand Antisepsis in Health Care Settings.
      • 2.
        Antibacterial Soaps
      In addition to washing off microorganisms, antibacterial soaps contain ingredients that actually inhibit the growth of and/or kill germs on the hands. They are detergent-based products, requiring traditional handwashing with water. Some are also used for face and body washing. Antibacterial soaps can also reduce bacteria on the skin and the rates of superficial skin-related infections.
      • Keswick B.H.
      • Berge C.A.
      • Bartolo R.G.
      • Watson D.D.
      Antimicrobial Soaps: Their Role in Personal Hygiene, in Aly R, Beutner KR and Maibach H.
      Triclocarbon and triclosan are common antimicrobial active ingredients used in soap.
      • McDonnell G.
      • Denver Russell A.
      Antiseptics and Disinfectants: Activity, Action, and Resistance.
      • Russell A.D.
      Similarities and Differences in the Responses of Microorganisms to Biocides.
      However, two recent studies of households using plain soaps and antibacterial soaps have failed to show reductions in infection rates due to the presence of antibacterial ingredients in the soap. In one study, antibacterial products did not reduce the risk for symptoms of viral infections in the home compared to nonbacterial products. This finding was not surprising since the products were antibacterial and not antiviral and, therefore, would not be expected to reduce viral infections.
      • Larson E.L.
      • Lin S.X.
      • Gomez-Pichardo C.
      • Della-Latta P.
      Effect of Antibacterial Home Cleaning and Handwashing Products on Infectious Disease Symptoms.
      Another found significant reductions in symptoms among members of households using both plain and antibacterial soaps, but no significant differences in outcomes between users of the two types of products.
      • Luby S.P.
      • Agboatwalla M.
      • Feikin D.R.
      • Painter J.
      • Billhimer W.
      • Altaf A.
      • Hoekstra R.M.
      Effect of Handwashing on Child Health: A Randomised Controlled Trial.
      • 3.
        Hand Sanitizers (nonsoap products)
      Hand sanitizers are non-detergent-based, antibacterial products in the form of hand rinses, gels, or wipes, which usually contain alcohol as the antibacterial ingredient. They rapidly kill a broad spectrum of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
      • Russell A.D.
      Similarities and Differences in the Responses of Microorganisms to Biocides.
      However, they are not effective against bacterial spores.
      • Russell A.D.
      Similarities and Differences in the Responses of Microorganisms to Biocides.
      They can be used when no running water or towels are available. Since these products are not good cleaning agents, they are not a substitute for handwashing, especially when hands are visibly soiled.
      • Ali Y.
      • Dolan M.J.
      • Fendler E.J.
      • Larson E.L.
      Disinfection, Sterilization and Preservation.

      Epidemiology Studies from Community Settings -Schools, Adult, and Child-care Facilities

      In more recent years, information relating hand hygiene to reduced transmission has been developed in institutional settings, such as schools, adult-care settings, and child-care settings. Since home environments can include activities or situations similar to these institutional settings, a summary of some of the studies in these settings is worthwhile.

      Schools

      Absenteeism among elementary school teachers and students can be significantly reduced when an alcohol gel hand sanitizer is used in schools as part of a hand hygiene program, including handwashing instructions to students.
      • Hammond B.
      • Ali Y.
      • Fendler E.
      • Dolan M.
      • Donovan S.
      Effect of Hand Sanitizer Use on Elementary School Absenteeism.
      Overall, absenteeism due to colds, flu, and gastrointestinal disease decreased by 20% among students and 10% among teachers in 16 schools and 1,600 students involved in one study. Another study involving elementary school students examined the effect of handwashing education programs and the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in five schools and among 290 students.
      • Guinan M.
      • McGuckin M.
      • Ali Y.
      The Effect of a Comprehensive Handwashing Program on Absenteeism in Elementary Schools.
      The students receiving the education and using the sanitizer had 51% fewer absences than those who did not receive the education or use the product.
      Other school studies have examined the use of an alcohol-free sanitizer containing benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient. Illness-related absenteeism declined 42% among elementary students using a benzalkonium chloride-based sanitizer along with routine handwashing, compared to students routinely washing their hands but not using the product.
      • Dyer D.
      • Shinder A.
      • Shinder F.
      Alcohol-Free Instant Hand Sanitizer Reduces Elementary School Illness Absenteeism.
      Elementary students supplied bottles of a benzalkonium chloride-based sanitizer were 33% less likely to be absent due to illness than students supplied hand sanitizers with no active ingredient.
      • White C.
      • Shinder F.
      • Shinder A.
      • Dyer D.
      Reduction of Illness Absenteeism in Elementary Schools Using and Alcohol-free Instant Hand Sanitizer.
      These types of hand hygiene programs have had similar results in university residence halls.
      • White C.
      • Kolble R.
      • Carlson R.
      • Lipson N.
      • Dolan M.
      • Ali Y.
      • Cline M.
      The Effect of Hand Hygiene on Illness Rate Among Students in University Residence Halls.
      Students in residence halls receiving hand hygiene education and fitted with hand sanitizers had 15 to 40% reductions in upper respiratory illness symptoms. Overall, illness rates declined 20%. They had 43% fewer missed school and work days.

      Adult Day-care Centers

      Reductions in respiratory illness in adult day-care centers occur with the introduction of an infection control program, including handwashing education and the use of an alcohol foam.
      • White C.
      • Kolble R.
      • Carlson R.
      • Lipson N.
      • Dolan M.
      • Ali Y.
      • Cline M.
      The Effect of Hand Hygiene on Illness Rate Among Students in University Residence Halls.
      Use of an isopropanol hand rinse in addition to intervention hygiene instruction significantly reduces the occurrence of symptoms of intestinal disease in family day-care homes.
      • Falsey A.R.
      • Criddle M.M.
      • Kolassa J.E.
      • McCann R.M.
      • Brower C.A.
      • Hall W.J.
      Evaluation of a Handwashing Intervention to Reduce Respiratory Illness Rates in Senior Day-Care Centers.

      Child-care Centers

      Child-care centers have been identified as the source of rotavirus in 25 to 40% of the outbreaks of diarrheal illness. Formulations of chlorhexidine gluconate with ethanol, quaternary ammonium compounds with isopropyl alcohol, ethanol, and ethanol with o-phenylphenol have found to be effective in inactivating rotavirus on surfaces.
      • Dennehy P.H.
      Transmission of Rotavirus and Other Enteric Pathogens in the Home.
      Infection prevention programs in child day-care centers and preschool programs, including hygiene education, increased frequency of handwashing, the use of disinfectants, regular cleaning of the centers and regular washing of toys, have been demonstrated to significantly reduce infections in both children and personnel.
      • Uhari M.
      • Möttönen M.
      An Open Randomized Controlled Trial of Infection in Child Day-Care Centers.
      • Carabin H.
      • Gyorkos T.W.
      • Soto J.C.
      • Joseph L.
      • Payment P.
      • Collet J.
      Effectiveness of a Training Program in Reducing Infections in Toddlers Attending Day Care Centers.
      • Krilov L.R.
      • Barone S.R.
      • Mandel E.S.
      • Cusack T.M.
      • Graber D.J.
      • Rubino J.R.
      Impact of an Infection Control Program in a Specialized Preschool.
      Handwashing Procedures
      Despite the fact that frequent and proper handwashing practices are important in preventing infection, the average person still does not wash his/her hands often or long enough. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

      Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/op/ handwashing.htm.

      it is especially important to wash your hands:
      • Before, during, and after you prepare food
      • Before you eat and after you use the bathroom
      • After handling animals or animal waste
      • When your hands are dirty
      • More frequently when someone in your home is sick It's also important to use the proper procedure:
      • Wet your hands and apply a liquid or a bar soap. Bar soap should be placed on a rack and allowed to drain.
      • Rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces.
      • Continue for 10 to 15 seconds (about the length of time it takes to sing a short song, such as “Happy Birthday”). The soap combined with the scrubbing action helps dislodge and remove germs.
      • Rinse well and dry your hands.
      When to Use Hand Sanitizers and Antibacterial Soaps
      Since hands serve as one primary mode of fecal-oral and respiratory transmission of microbes, an antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer should be used when an individual is:
      • In close physical contact with high-risk individuals—e.g., infants, the very old, or people with weakened immune systems
      • Infected with an organism and may potentially transmit the organism by the direct-contact route—e.g., diarrhea, upper respiratory infection, skin infections
      • In close contact with an infected individual
      • Working in a setting where the spread of infectious disease is likely—e.g., food preparation, or crowded living quarters, such as chronic-care residences, prisons, child-care centers, and schools, including preschools.
      Hand sanitizers may be most practical to use in the following circumstances:
      • When immediate antibacterial activity is needed
      • After encounters that result in a high probability of contamination
      • Where soap, running water, and/or clean towels are not readily available

      Healthy Hands

      The skin is the most important and first-line barrier to infections because it has natural antibacterial properties. Therefore, it is vital that hands be kept as clean and healthy as possible.
      Some soaps, when used excessively for handwashing, can alter the skin's antibacterial properties by changing its pH. They do this by reducing fatty acids and, subsequently, the microbial flora.
      • Korting H.C.
      • Kober M.
      • Mueller M.
      • Braun-Falco O.
      Influence of Repeated Washings with Soap and Synthetic Detergents on pH and Resident Flora of the Skin of Forehead and Forearm, Results of a Cross-Over Trial in Health Probationers.
      The skin's water content, humidity, pH, intracellular lipids, and rates of shedding each play a role in retaining the skin's protective barriers. Very frequent handwashing with soaps, as encountered in professional healthcare settings (e.g., 10 to 20 times per work shift) can cause dry skin, irritation, cracking and other problems.
      • Larson E.L.
      • Aiello A.E.
      • Bastyr J.
      • Lyle C.
      • Stahl J.
      • Cronquist A.
      • Lai L.
      • Della-Latta P.
      Assessment of Two Hand Hygiene Regimens for Intensive Care Unit Personnel.
      • Winnefeld M.
      • Richard M.A.
      • Drancourt M.
      • Grob J.J.
      Ski Tolerance and Effectiveness of Two Hand Decontamination Procedures in Everyday Hospital Use.
      A solution to retaining the skin's protective barriers is the use of moisturizers, which prevent dehydration, damage to the skin's protective barriers, scaly skin, and loss of skin lipids. Moisturizers may even help prevent the spread of microorganisms from the hands.
      • Gillespie W.A.
      • Simpson K.
      • Tozer R.C.
      Staphylococcal Infection in a Maternal Hospital: Epidemiology and Control.
      • McBride M.E.
      • Montes L.F.
      • Knox J.M.
      The Persistence and Penetration of Antiseptic Activity.
      They also restore the water-holding capacity of the keratin layer and increase the width of corneocytes.
      • Grunewald A.M.
      • Gloor M.
      • Gehring W.
      • Kleesz P.
      • Lachapelle J.M.
      Efficacy of Protective Creams and/or Gels.
      For individuals with dry or damaged skin, it is important to use emollients or lotions to replace lost fatty acids and keep the hands hydrated. Reviews about hand and skin hygiene have been published and can be consulted for more information.
      • Larson E.
      Skin Hygiene and Infection Prevention: More of the Same or Different Approaches?.
      • Larson E.
      Hygiene of the Skin: When Is Clean Too Clean?.

      Conclusions

      This chapter began by highlighting the many diseases from The American Public Health Association Handbook on Control of Communicable Diseases in Man that are mitigated by personal and household hygiene practices. Good hand hygiene, surface cleaning and disinfection, and laundering practices, in particular, can lessen the chances of spreading these diseases.
      Microbes can spread and grow in the home, particularly in the kitchen, bathroom, and laundry areas. The highest counts of microbes in the kitchen and bathroom are found in wet areas around the sink, in sponges and cloths used for wiping and/or drying kitchen surfaces, and in the areas around the bathroom sink.
      Water temperature can influence the survival of microbes during dishwashing and laundry practices. For the laundry, drying is the most reliable method for destroying microbes. Attaining maximal reduction in bacteria in both the machine and fabrics depends on the use of bleach or disinfecting detergents, as well as the water temperature.
      Successful strategies for reducing microbial risks in the home include both the selection of appropriate cleaning and disinfecting products and proper cleaning practices. The behavioral aspects of infection prevention in the home, such as food-handling practices, warrant increased public attention and education. Routine cleaning is often sufficient, but in some cases, such as infection of a household member, it may not adequately reduce contamination. In order to maximize the removal of microbes, care should be taken to use disinfecting products according to their instructions. In general, these products have a role as part of a household hygiene strategy. However, the effectiveness of disinfectants depends on how they are used.
      Overall, evidence from homes, as well as institutional settings, clearly demonstrates that personal hygiene and cleaning continue to be very valuable disease-prevention strategies today. It is increasingly important that proper home hygiene and cleaning practices are followed to reduce the risk of spreading disease.

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