Thurston County Connection Newsletter
Thurston County Connection
Thurston County Connection
December, 2014
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Changes at Thurston County Superior Court

(More) Changes at Thurston County Superior Court

County Benefits from “JBLM Day of Service”

It’s official!

Health Systems Doing a Good Job of Tracking Illnesses

Families Welcome New Members

Perfection is Reality for County Waste Water Treatment Plant

Less Leftovers, More Joy

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 Why Washing Hands Works.

Thurston County Health Officer Dr. Diana Yu.

You heard it all over the media this spring – washing your hands is the first line of defense against getting sick and spreading illness, such as H1N1 (swine flu). This is always good advice, but particularly relevant in the case of the flu virus. Interestingly, you don’t get the flu just by being in the same room, bus, or theatre as a sick person; typically it’s what you do with your hands.

Here’s how it works. When a sick person coughs or sneezes, infected droplets of saliva and mucus go into the air and then onto a surface (unless the person uses a tissue or sneezes into the corner of their arm). If you are unlucky enough to be within 3 or 4 feet of the person who sneezes or coughs, the droplets may land right on your body. If you are especially unlucky, they may even land directly on your mucus membranes – your eyes, mouth, or nose. Other droplets land on the infected person’s hands, or on a computer keyboard, telephone, counter, or other surface. The flu virus is not thought to survive in the air long enough to linger, be breathed in, and infect a person who walks by later. If you stayed more than 4 feet away from someone and think you caught a bug from them, it is most likely that you picked up the virus from a surface. Maybe you shook their hand, used the computer or phone, opened a door, or touched something that may have infectious germs on it, and then touched your nose, mouth, or eyes.

You can break the cycle by physically scrubbing and washing your hands before you touch your face. Use a clean bar of soap and warm water. Warm water and soap help loosen dirt that may hold germs, but if not available lots of cold water will do. Scrub vigorously! Some germs have “sticking” power. Scrub all surfaces of your hands – palms, backs, and in between all the fingers. Use a clean fingernail brush for nails. Keep on scrubbing for 20 seconds – about the time it takes to sing “Row, row, row your boat” or “Happy Birthday” two times.

When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel works in seconds and without water; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands. In order to prevent the drying effects of the alcohol, use a sanitizer with a moisturizer. While alcohol-based or waterless hand sanitizers are good for killing germs, they do not clean off dirt and toxins. That is why the first advice is still to use soap and warm water.

Antibacterial soaps are not needed. A study conducted by Columbia University found that antibacterial soaps have no extra benefit over plain soaps. The American Medical Association and the Centers for Disease Control do not recommend the use of antibacterial soaps. Antibacterial compounds need to be left on hands for about two minutes in order to have any effect on bacteria. Plus, they do not kill viruses such as the flu virus.

Remember, people may be contagious from one day before they develop flu symptoms to up to 7 days after they get sick. So if you cough and cover your mouth with your hands, make sure you wash up thoroughly after.

For more information on the flu and other health matters, see the Thurston County Public Health web site .

By Dr. Diana Yu

Wash your hands completely and often! Wash your hands completely and often!