Veterinarians Stress Importance of Handwashing

December 8, 2008

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Dec. 8 /PRNewswire/ — The American Veterinary Medical
Association (AVMA) is joining other U.S. public health organizations in urging
everyone to take their health into their hands by observing National
Handwashing Awareness Week, December 7-13.

Created in 1999 by physician Dr. Will Sawyer due to a flu vaccine shortage
in Cincinnati, National Handwashing Awareness Week is now observed across the

According to Dr. James O. Cook, president of the AVMA, proper handwashing
can greatly reduce the spread of disease between animals and people, known as
zoonotic disease.

“We are exposed to germs or expose others to germs as we go through our
day, interacting with animals and other people,” says Dr. Cook. “Keeping our
hands free of germs through proper handwashing is often the best way to avoid
getting sick or spreading diseases to other people.”

Dogs and cats, especially those that go outside, can carry germs from the
environment into the home on their fur, paws, or in their mouths. Some
animals, like turtles, iguanas, snakes, and lizards, often carry Salmonella
bacteria. Petting zoos, farms, county fairs, and other sites that allow human
contact with farm animals pose a risk for the spread of E. Coli, among other
diseases. Simple hand washing can reduce that risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year
5,000 people die from food-borne illnesses. A direct link to many of these
deaths is poor handwashing. In addition, there are 76 million food-borne
illnesses resulting in more than 300,000 hospital admissions each year.

Dr. Cook says that it is critical to wash your hands before and after food
preparation and eating, as well as after handling animals. Use soap and
running water and scrub all surfaces of your hands for 20 seconds before
drying with a paper towel.

If soap and water aren’t available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be
used. Since 2002, the CDC has recommended that health care workers use these
sanitizers after treating patients, and Dr. Cook has fitted his animal
hospital with sanitizer dispensers outside of each exam room.

“Simple steps such as these go a long way in preventing the spread of
disease among my staff and clients,” said Dr. Cook.

For more information visit the AVMA’s Web site at http://www.avma.org.

SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association

Source: newswire

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