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10 things you didn't know about infection control

Think you know all there is to know about hygiene? Think again

Posted by Hannah Vickers | August 06, 2017 | Facilities management

By Chris Tranter, Specification Product Manager at Bristan

Infection control is a tricky area at the best of times, and when it comes to education facilities full of vulnerable youngsters, it becomes even more complex. But what is the real cost of illness in schools, and how much of an impact can poor hand hygiene have? Here are ten facts to give you food for thought when planning school washrooms:

1. Poor hand-hygiene is a serious challenge when considering infection control, with estimates suggesting that 80% of infectious diseases are spread by touch. This is a major consideration for schools, as children are generally more tactile, and therefore bacteria can spread exceptionally quickly.

2. Bacteria can quickly spread from surface to surface through students passing bacteria amongst one another, by touching surfaces like taps and toilet flushes

3. According to Department of Education statistics, 58,907,790 school days were missed by children between 2008/2009, an issue which the Government has spent millions of pounds attempting to remedy, as students with high levels of absence are more likely to leave school under-qualified. 

4. The top five illnesses that cause absences are; the common cold, sore throat, ear infection, stomach flu and conjunctivitis. These types of infections are all spread by close contact, and can be prevented by proper hand washing.

5. The total cost to the UK economy of school sick days is around £17 billion – including £3 billion on cover for sick staff members, and time lost by parents who have to leave work early to care for unwell children.

6. One in five parents don’t tell their children to wash their hands after going to the toilet, and three-quarters fail to remind them to clean their hands before eating. This means that hand hygiene education is often left to the school to enforce.

7. The average person carries around 3,000 bacteria on their hands, of more than 100 different species – and these can be transferred when touching surfaces such as taps or door handles, thus potentially spreading infection.

8. Non-touch washroom controls can make a big difference. For example, Bristan’s range of infrared products includes taps, a flush mechanism and a soap dispenser, which means that the risk of cross-contamination in the washroom is lowered in-line with the reduced need for touch.

9. There is a major added bonus to using non-touch technologies: efficiency. Unlike traditional setups, where taps may be left running – or simply to drip, and where cisterns may have an unnecessarily high water demand, non-touch technology means water is only used as needed. This enables schools to significantly minimise mains water use in order to lower their environmental impact and cut water bills.

10. Researchers believe that a staggering 1 million lives could be saved a year if everyone practised proper hand hygiene. Whilst infections picked up in a school are unlikely to prove fatal, reducing the likelihood of cross contamination, and making hand washing as simple as possible, can certainly make a big difference in the overall health of staff and students.

Fundamentally, it is important to instil behavioural change by encouraging everyone, children and staff alike, to wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water.  Good practice also constitutes routine sterilisation; with a focus on cleaning and disinfecting germ-prone surfaces and objects such as countertops, urinals, toilets, door knobs, toilet handles, and faucets.

However, even with these measures in place there is still room for bacteria to spread, but this can be avoided by the installation of solutions that offer completely hands-free operation whereby automatic detection eliminates the risk of germs being spread via the hands.

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