There is a current outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa. Ebola virus disease is a severe acute viral disease that can spread from animal to human or from human to human, both through direct contact with an infected person or animal’s bodily fluids, or indirectly through contact with materials that have been contaminated with these infected bodily fluids. As many as nine out of every ten people who are infected with Ebola virus die from the disease. For more information about Ebola virus disease, please refer to the World Health Organization factsheet.
For any infection that is transmitted though human to human contact involving bodily fluids, handwashing with soap after any contact (or potential contact) with body fluids, whether direct or indirect, is one method to help protect yourself and others from infection.
“The protection works by simply washing the infection-causing germs off your hands before they get a chance to infect you, and before you accidentally touch things that could help spread these infection-causing germs to other people,” says Dr Layla McCay, Secretariat Director of the Global Public Private Partnership for Handwashing. “Just wet your hands with water, lather with soap for 20 seconds, rinse with running water, and shake your hands dry. Remember: infection-causing germs are too small to see with the naked eye, so you should wash your hands after any possible exposure.”
In the case of the ongoing outbreak of Ebola virus, hand washing has a role in preventing the spread of the disease. The World Health Organization recommends regularly washing your hands with soap after visiting or taking care of Ebola patients, along with several other measures to help prevent the spread of Ebola virus. Health workers, who are particularly at risk, are advised to practice good hand hygiene while treating all their patients, because the diagnosis of Ebola is not always immediately apparent. WHO has dispatched social mobilization teams to villages at risk, to educate them in how to properly hand wash.