Hand Sanitizers Increase Norovirus Risk in Long-Term Care Facilities

Those popular alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t do a good job of killing germs like norovirus. Hand washing with soap is better according to an article published on the Canadian Medical Association Journal’s (CMAJ) website.

The Montreal Gazette said the study on which the article is based, was conducted in the United States; results were released this year at an American College of Preventive Medicine meeting.

The study revealed long-term care facilities were likelier to experience norovirus outbreaks if staff opted to use hand sanitizers versus basic soap and water hand washing, noted the Montreal Gazette. The study found that 53 percent of the 45 facilities studied that preferred the ubiquitous sanitizers experienced multiple norovirus outbreaks. In those 17 facilities in which staff generally washed with soap and water and did not use hand sanitizers for routine cleaning, only 18 percent experienced norovirus outbreaks, said the Montreal Gazette.

“Hand sanitizer is promoted so widely because it’s efficient, accessible and takes relatively very little time to use,” Kate Ellingson, an epidemiologist with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said to the CMAJ. “There’s potentially a large trade-off in switching back to soap and water in the health-care setting, where workers have to wash their hands many, many times per shift, or even hour, depending on what they’re doing,” she added, wrote the Montreal Gazette.

Norovirus are a group of viruses that cause swelling in the linings of both the stomach and intestines, according to the CDC. A highly contagious, severe gastrointestinal illness commonly referred to as the so-called “stomach flu,” Norovirus spreads quickly because it transmits easily through the vomit and feces of people sick with the illness. Contact with only a few particles can make a person ill.

Norovirus, which can survive for weeks on surfaces at room temperature, can be difficult to eliminate, and can only be killed with chorine bleach. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and other preparations have never been found to be very helpful.

We routinely discuss the dangers of antibiotic misuse and overuse and how these practices are directly linked to antibiotic resistant diseases that can wreak havoc on the body. The potential global ramifications connected to antibiotic misuse and overuse are staggering.

Antibiotic resistance has become more than just worrisome. Its implications are dangerous, deadly, and here and misuse of these vital and potent compounds are mitigating the worldwide war against infections diseases and rendering existing antibiotics useless, according to a warning recently issued by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Antibiotics overuse and misuse cause bacteria mutate, changing just enough to ensure drugs have no effect on them and allowing them a wide berth to spread with increasing ferocity. Although tempting, preventative antibiotic regimes worsen the epidemic, strengthening the bacteria. New drugs are not immune because, as new drugs surface, it’s a matter of time before super bugs become resistant to them, too. Tuberculosis, which should have been obliterated years ago; malaria, which is now strain resistant; gonorrhea, which is experiencing growing strain resistance; and hospital-acquired superbugs are all increasing in ferocity, said WHO. Other antibiotic resistant superbugs include drug resistant MRSA, E. coli, and Salmonella, and the list is growing.

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