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World Hand Hygiene Day 2023

Washing your hands is still a good idea, even if COVID-19 is less of a threat, experts say.

World Health Organization hand hygiene poster that says "Save Lives. Clean your hands."

“The best offense is a good defense” is a sports maxim that can also apply to infection control if your first line of defense is washing your hands.

Humble soap and water can do so much to prevent viruses and bacteria from spreading that hospitals do all they can to encourage doctors and nurses to wash up between patients. The World Health Organization (WHO) even urges patients to remind members of their health care team to wash up.

The WHO, which promotes World Hand Hygiene Day on May 5, says washing hands saves millions of lives each year.

But experts interviewed recently fear that handwashing is on the decline now that three years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, hand sanitizer flew off the shelves and many people increased their attention to hand hygiene. It turned out that COVID-19 was mainly transmitted by air, making surface contamination, including hands, less of a priority.

But handwashing remains a powerful weapon against catching the common cold and nasty gastrointestinal bugs, Dr. John Swartzberg, clinical professor emeritus of the Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology division at UC Berkeley, told San Francisco’s WQED.

Read: Why You Should Still Be Washing Your Hands in 2023 – Not Just for COVID-19