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All around us are millions of small life forms know as micro-organisms.
We cannot see them because they are too small for the human eye. In
places that may look clean to us there may be millions of them. They are
present in our homes on various surfaces, at our workplaces and desks,
in our cars and vehicles in which we travel (airplanes, cars, coaches,
minibuses, train carriages, boats, ships, etc). They exist in schools,
hospitals, hotels and even on our bodies and can pass on to other
people. They can survive for long periods and multiply at an incredible
Why should this bother us? Most of them are not harmful but some are and they are called ‘germs’. They can cause minor to very serious infections that can make us and members of our families – example our children, fall ill. There are many ways in which people can contact germs. It can be through the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, through our skin, through our eyes and other passages on our body.
Not everybody will suffer from the problems that germs cause. However, some people can suffer so much from the infections caused by germs – like pregnant women, people who have serious sickness, newborn babies, children under five years old, old people, people in hospitals and those who have just returned from hospital.
There are many ways to reduce the spread of germs. Some simple hygiene rules include good hand washing (this can be a problem where there is no water). Also regular and proper cleaning of your homes especially kitchen, bathrooms and areas that you keep pets and damp areas.
This is one of the most important ways to reduce the spread of germs.
Germs can be transported on our hands to other people and onto surfaces.
Many hospitals now advice that people wash their hands often so as not
to spread germs. People are also adviced to wash their hands often when
someone is ill at home or there is a newborn baby, children and elderly
people. Use soap to watch hands under warm water and dry your hands
well. The problem with hand washing is that water may sometimes not be
You should ensure that you wash your hands:
- When you are about to make food
- When you are about to eat
- When you have finished using the toilet
- When you come in contact with items that are well known reservoirs for germs are like rubbish bins, pets, etc
Some tips and steps on how to wash your hands:
- Wet hands, apply soap and rub hands together for 15-30 seconds, palm to palm.
- Right palm over back of left hand and left hand over back of right hand.
- Palm to palm, fingers interlaced.
- Backs of fingers to opposite hands, palms with fingers interlocked.
- Rotational rubbing of right thumb clasped in left palm and vice versa.
- Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards, with clasped fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa.
- Finally rinse hands with water and dry thoroughly.
Many germs hide here and multiply rapidly. Germs can easily affect food
and infect people so that they become ill. Here are some simple steps to
follow to keep your kitchen clean and hygienic.
- Watch your hands thoroughly immediate after handling raw meat, to prevent the spread of germs.
- Ensure that you clean your bins regularly and keep them covered
- Clean your cupboard handles regularly with disinfectants.
- Clean work surfaces immediately after use.
- Have separate chopping boards for raw meats and other foods
- Ensure you clean chopping boards after use with soap and water
- Use plastic chopping boards that do not scratch easily, making them easier to clean.
- Disinfect cleaning cloths and dishcloths by soaking them overnight in a dilute solution of soapy water or other disinfectants and dry them thoroughly.
This bathroom can provide rest and comfort when it is clean and not
smelly. Regular cleaning can ensure that your private moments using the
bathroom are hygienic and safe. The places to pay close attention to
while cleaning your bathrooms include taps, flush handles and surfaces –
germs multiply in these areas. Use antiseptic cleaning agents to clean
regularly especially if you have someone ill at home especially with
diarrhoea or a little one.
Bins are usually moist and rich in nutrients providing good breeding
place for germs to multiply quickly. Reduce germs contaminating hands
and food by doing the following:
- Clean bins after collection and emptying
- Keep bin hygienic by using disinfectant sprays and wipes
- Wash your hands every time you touch your bin
- Always close bins to keep flies and smell out
- Recycle where you have this facility
Commonly called Flu but actually known as Influenza
It is caused by a group of highly contagious viruses that can infect the upper airways and compromise our ability to breathe with ease. Since there are many subtypes of the virus that cause Flu, even when you have some immunity, you may not be completely protected. Flu may occur at various times of the year but generally occurs seasonally - especially when dry in the tropics, and during winter in temperate climates.
The spread of Flu is mostly in the home and schools where there is crowding and closeness, from the saliva or mucus of an ill person that is released when he or she coughs or sneezes. This then breaks into small particles called droplets which when inhaled breathed can infect people standing nearby. Droplets may also settle on surrounding surfaces, fabrics, tissues, hands, etc and can be picked up by someone else later when they come in contact with contaminated surfaces or materials and then put their hands to their mouth, eyes or nose.
Those who are most at risk of being infected with flu are newborns, infants, under fives, pregnant women, elderly and other people who may have low immunity.
The symptoms of flu include:
- Joints aches
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Itchy and painful eyes
- Sensitivity to lights
In people with reduced immunity, Flu infections can be further
complicated leading to lower respiratory infections and in severe cases
may result in treatment in hospital.
To prevent spread of flu
- Regularly disinfect the surfaces that people come into contact with.
- Regularly wash hands
- Avoid touching nose, mouth and eyes when there is flu
- Do not share face towels and cloths with other people
- Soak sponges and cleaning cloths overnight
- Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing – this is good hygiene practice - and wash your hands regularly, to prevent spread of infections
MRSA stands for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus. It is a
common skin bacterium resistant to a wide range of antibiotics. It lives
normally on the skin of many people (such as in the armpits, groin or
nostrils), and is easily transferred onto other surfaces. Many people
who have been in hospital carry MRSA as they may have been in contact
with the infection while in hospital. It is not normally a problem for
healthy people carrying the bacteria but it can easily infect wounds or
cuts on the skin. Carriers can spread the bacteria to people who are
vulnerable like elderly people, very young, very unwell and people with
The symptoms of MRSA include:
- Septicaemia (blood poisoning) if it gets into the blood stream
- Blisters that itch
MRSA can be prevented by:
- Hand hygiene – simple hand washing
- Not sharing personal items like toothbrushes, towels, etc with others
- Regular and proper cleaning and dressing of cuts and wounds
- Regular and thorough cleaning of bathrooms and toilets
- Proper laundry and separate use of beddings
It is a bacterium that is a common cause of food poisoning. It normally
lives in the intestines of animals and infected people. People who
become ill with Salmonella can remain contagious even after they have
fully recovered. It only takes a very low dose of the germs to fall ill.
It is spread from person to person or animal to person through:
- The stool of a person or animal who is infected.
- Raw poultry, eggs, and pets
- Contaminated food, hands and surfaces
- Infection transmission is high when someone has diarrhoea
Children, pregnant women and elderly people are at higher risk of the infection. The symptoms of the infection include:
- Abdominal cramps or pains
- More serious infections may occur when Salmonella enters the blood stream and spreads to other organs
Here are some tips to prevent spread of the infection:
- High level of hand hygiene through hand washing and gel disinfectants
- Care of food in the kitchen to prevent contamination
- Good hygiene even after the symptoms have gone
- Thoroughly clean bathrooms and toilet surfaces with disinfectants especially after the use of someone with diarrhea
- Ensure to clean all spillages like vomits, faeces, etc immediately
- Soak cleaning materials and cloths overnight in soap or disinfectant liquids
- Ensure that nappies are handled and disposed of properly and hands thoroughly cleaned after that
- Particular care to be taken by infected people working in the food preparation industry who become infected with Salmonella or other germs causing food poisoning: to ensure others are not put at risk.
This accounts for most of the germs affecting the stomach of children.
It lives in the intestines of infected people. It can be passed on when
a healthy person comes into contact with the faeces of an infected
person, and further transfers the virus to themselves and other
surfaces/people by poor hygiene practice.
The virus may enter the home inside or on a person or animals (dogs, cats, chickens, turkeys etc). People or animals that are ill pass the germ in their vomit or faeces. This can then be spread throughout the home via hands, toilet surfaces, nappies, or when people touch surfaces. Food and water can then be contaminated.
People who are elderly or very young are most vulnerable and they can easily loose a lot of fluids from diarrhoea and get dehydrated.
Below are some of the symptoms:
- Mild to moderate fever in some cases
- Stomach ache
- Dry, cool skin
- Watery diarrhoea
- Severe dehydration may necessitate hospitalization
- Frequent and thorough hand washing
- Hygienic cleaning of the home especially bathrooms and toilets
- Hygienic handling of nappies
- Hygienic handling of bins
- Hygienic handling of food
- Clean up spillages of vomit and faeces immediately
- Soak cleaning cloth in disinfectant or soap overnight
Hand hygiene in medical/clinical settings
Use alcohol gels to clean hands immediately before and after touching a patient.
To clean hands properly, wash your hands with soap and water:
- When starting a shift
- When visibly soiled
- Before drug rounds
- When serving food
Hand hygiene is the single most important way of reducing cross-infection.