Toilet Talk Gets Real: We Could Do A Better Job Of Washing Our Hands

May 24, 2019

We'd like to take a second to talk to you about poop.

Yeah, that's right.

Poop.

Let us explain: there's a lot of hepatitis A circulating through Florida right now. So far in 2019, Florida has logged more than 1,200 cases of hepatitis A--that's more than twice as many cases as Florida saw all of last year. And hepatitis A can be spread a few ways, but one of the most common ways is when tiny traces of poop from an infected person make it into someone else's food or drink--a cycle known as the "fecal-oral route."

A little gross, right?

Good news: there are some very, very effective ways of breaking this germy wheel. The hepatitis A vaccine prevents the virus from causing an infection to begin with. (Read more about the hepatitis A vaccine.)

And proper hand-washing stops the fecal-oral route cold. In fact, proper hand-washing is an extraordinarily effective way to suds all sorts of gnarly infectious agents off our grimy paws and stop us from spreading them around.

You know this. We all know this.

But it turns out, we're likely washing up wrong anyway. A study published last summer by the United States Department of Agriculture found that 97 percent of people who were invited to prepare a meal in a test kitchen failed to properly wash their hands.

Here's the hand-washing guideline from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Do you do all those steps? Right.

And in case you need any more motivation to do your part in stopping the spread of hepatitis A through the fecal-oral route, check out this delightful hand-washing video from UNICEF: