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Hygiene Fast Facts

Information on Water-related Hygiene

Handwashing

  • It is estimated that washing hands with soap and water could reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50% 1.
  • Researchers in London estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, a million deaths a year could be prevented 2.
  • A large percentage of foodborne disease outbreaks are spread by contaminated hands. Appropriate hand washing practices can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and other infections 3.
  • Handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16% 4.
  • The use of an alcohol gel hand sanitizer in the classroom provided an overall reduction in absenteeism due to infection by 19.8% among 16 elementary schools and 6,000 students 5.

Face and Body Hygiene

  • More than 50% of healthy persons have Staphylococcus aureus living in or on their nasal passages, throats, hair, or skin 6.
  • Within the first 15 minutes of bathing, the average person sheds 6 x 106 colony forming units (CFU) of Staphylococcus aureus 7.
  • The average individual swimmer contributes at least 0.14 grams of fecal material to the water, usually within the first 15 minutes of entering 8. Showering with soap before swimming helps stop the spread of germs by removing fecal material from the body.
  • Trachoma, the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide, is related to the lack of facial hygiene 9.
  • Inadequate contact lens hygiene, such as failure to properly disinfect lenses, is associated with an increased risk of acquiring the eye infection Acanthamoeba keratitis 10.
  • The spread of pinworms can be reduced by proper hygiene, including clipping nails and showering children immediately after they wake in the morning 11.
  • Hundreds of thousands of persons in the U.K. (between 1.2% and 1.3% of the total population) acquire outer ear infections each year, due to contaminated water remaining in the ear after swimming or bathing 12.

  1. World Health Organization. Water for health: taking charge. 2001. [PDF - 6 pages].
  2. Curtis V, Camicross S. Effect of washing hands with soap on diarrhoea risk in the community: A systematic review. Lancet Infect Dis. 2003;3(5):275-81.
  3. World Health Organization. Hand washing and food safety fact sheet 2.
  4. Rabie T, Curtis V. Handwashing and risk of respiratory infections: a quantitative systematic review. Trop Med Int Health. 2006;11(3):258-67.
  5. Hammond B, Ali Y, Fendler E, Dolan M, Donovan S. Effect of hand sanitizer use on elementary school absenteeism. Am J Infect Control. 2000;28(5):340-6.
  6. Food and Drug Administration. Bad Bug Book – Staphylococcus aureus.
  7. Elmir SM, Wright ME, Abdelzaher A, Solo-Gabriele HM, Fleming LE, Miller G, Rybolowik M, Shih P, Pillai SP, Cooper JA, Quayed EA. Quantitative evaluation of bacteria released by bathers in a marine water. Water Research. 2007;41:3-10.
  8. Gerba CP. Assessment of enteric pathogen shedding by bathers during recreational activity and its impact on water quality. Quant Microbiol. 2001;(2):55-68.
  9. Emerson PM, Burton M, Solomon AW, Mabey D. The SAFE strategy for trachoma control: using operational research for policy, planning and implementation. Bull World Health Organ. 2006;84:613-19.
  10. Seal, DV, Kirkness CM, Bennett HG, Peterson M. Acanthamoeba keratitis in Scotland: risk factors for contact lens wearers. Cont Lens Anterior Eye. 1999:22(2):58-68.
  11. CDC. Pinworm Infection (Enterobiasis).
  12. Rowlands S, Devalia H, Smith C, Hubbard R, Dean A. Otitis externa in UK general practice: a survey using the UK General Practice Research Database. Br J Gen Pract. 2001;51(468):533-38.

 
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