Friday, January 22, 2010

New Zealand: Decline in Hand Sanitizer Use

A recent study published in the European journal, Eurosurveillance, reveals that a follow-up conducted in December 2009 on hand sanitizer use at a New Zealand hospital declined from 18% in August 2009 to 8.2% in December. As expected, with a decrease in flu activity, there has been a reduction in individuals' perceived threat from the pandemic. But with future waves of the pandemic expected to occur, decreased vigilance could have serious implications in the spread and severity of the 2009 H1N1 virus.

According to the authors, the decline in sanitizer use could reflect an underlying seasonal pattern in hygiene behavior by the public. But more likely, the reason is that there was a decline in awareness of the pandemic and associated hygiene behavior over the four-month period between the two studies. This change could have been driven by reduced media reporting of the pandemic and lower public concern about this health threat. Staff and regular hospital visitors may also have become habituated to hygiene messages and to the presence of the sanitizer and associated instructions in the foyer which may also have contributed to reduced use.

Female subjects and children were identified in this study as more conscientious regarding hand hygiene behavior, a result which has been reported in other studies internationally for both sanitizer and soap use. The higher hand sanitizer use by children in this follow-up study was a surprise finding, and the researchers noted that most of the children observed went to the sanitizer first, and then the adults followed them. It is possible that hygiene education in schools during and since the pandemic may have contributed to this difference, and this finding re-enforces the importance of incorporating education in schools as a key prevention strategy in keeping the impact of the pandemic at the lowest possible level.

Source: Eurosurveillance

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