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Press Release

October 25, 2002
Contact: CDC Media Relations

CDC Releases New Hand-hygiene Guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released new guidelines that advise the use of alcohol-based handrubs to protect patients in health care settings. The new hand hygiene guidelines were released in Chicago during the 40th annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

"Clean hands are the single most important factor in preventing the spread of dangerous germs and antibiotic resistance in health care settings," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the CDC. "More widespread use of these products that improve adherence to recommended hand hygiene practices will promote patient safety and prevent infections."

CDC estimates that each year nearly 2 million patients in the United States get an infection in hospitals, and about 90,000 of these patients die as a result of their infection. Infections are also a complication of care in other settings including long-term care facilities, clinics and dialysis centers. Improving hand hygiene will help prevent the spread of germs from one patient to another. Data show that health care personnel may be more inclined to use alcohol-based handrubs because they are more convenient to use. Recent studies show that these handrubs actually reduce the number of bacteria on the hands more effectively than washing hands with soap and water.

"Health care personnel are always on the go which sometimes makes handwashing with soap and water difficult," said Dr. Steve Solomon, acting director of CDC's healthcare quality promotion division. "These handrubs should help promote hand hygiene because they are much more accessible than sinks, take less time to use and cause less skin irritation and dryness than many soaps."

The new guidelines recommend additional steps that administrators can take to increase adherence to good hand hygiene practices. When deciding what products to purchase, administrators should consult with health care personnel on issues like smell, consistency and the amount of skin irritation the product may cause. If, as expected, hand hygiene products improve hand hygiene practices, preventing even a few additional health care-associated infections per year will lead to savings that will exceed any extra costs for better hand hygiene products.

The hand hygiene guidelines were developed by the CDC's Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), in collaboration with the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC), the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA).

The hand hygiene guidelines are part of an overall CDC strategy to reduce infections in health care settings to promote patient safety. For more information about the hand hygiene campaign go to For more information about CDC's seven health care safety challenges go to

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This page last updated October 25, 2002

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