September 7, 2009

Hand sanitation paved with good intentions

Students may say they wash their hands as college campuses prepare for H1N1 flu but in reality they don't, U.S. researchers said.

Douglas Powell, an associate professor of food safety at Kansas State University, Ben Chapman, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University and research assistant Brae Surgeoner observed hand sanitation behavior during an outbreak of what was believed to be norovirus, which sickened nearly 340 students at the University of Guelph in Ontario.

Hand sanitation stations and informational posters were stationed at the entrance of a residence hall cafeteria.

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Health, said the researchers observed that even during a high-profile outbreak, students followed recommended hand hygiene procedures just 17 percent of the time. However, in a survey in which the students reported on their own hand washing after the outbreak, 83 of 100 students surveyed said they always followed proper hand hygiene.

More than 90 percent of the students cited the lack of soap, paper towels or hand sanitizer as barriers to hand washing. Additional perceived barriers included the notion that hand washing causes irritation and dryness, as well as laziness and forgetfulness about hand washing.