The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 160 million school days are lost each year due to infectious illnesses. Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent illness that can lead to absenteeism among school-aged children, yet few schools have a formal education program as a preventative strategy.
A Pilot Hand Hygiene experiment was initiated for 90 second grade students at a Virginia Beach Public School. The experiment was designed to bring awareness and to satisfy a scientific module requirement. Students cultured their hands on general purpose agar plates with the assistance of physicians and a microbiologist. The proper hand washing technique was demonstrated. Students were equally divided into two groups: hand washing group and sanitizer group. They were instructed to re-culture hands after intervention. Students observed cultures for five days and documented results.
· Overall, student observation of decreased microbial growth was an average of 91% (Figure 1).
· Education improved compliance, which resulted in a favorable behavioral change on average of 89% (Figure 2).
· There was a 71% decrease in incidence of illness-related absences 30 days after the hand hygiene intervention (Figure 3).
· In three out of five classes, hand sanitizer was more effective when compared to hand washing.
· In addition, a random sample of cultures were incubated in a microbiology lab to identify the common microbes among the second-grade elementary school population. It revealed both resident and transient flora. Post-intervention, there was a rise in coagulase-negative Staphylococci resident flora. This indicated a successful decrease in transient flora, which is most likely to cause illness.
Hand Hygiene education is remarkably beneficial, especially in children who are at greater risk of illness. It is clearly effective in decreasing infectious disease risk, while teaching a life-long skill. For the impact as a preventative strategy to be felt, its implementation into elementary school curriculum is warranted.
K. Imrit-Thomas, None
M. Malone, None
A. Tobias, None
L. Goudar, None