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Expert on Hospital Infections Talks about Hand Washing, Oct. 28

Johns Hopkins Medicine
Office of Corporate Communications
Media Contact:  David March
October 28, 2004  

Expert on Hospital Infections Talks About Hand Washing, Oct. 28

A world expert in low-tech strategies for preventing hospital infections will give advice on how to prevent hospital infections to physicians attending a grand round at Johns Hopkins: “Wash your hands.”

The talk, on Thursday, Oct. 28, at 11 a.m. in Hurd Hall, at Johns Hopkins Hospital, will be given by Didier Pittet, M.D., M.S., professor of medicine and director of the infection control program at the University of Geneva Hospitals in Switzerland.  Pittet will discuss ways to reduce the rate of hospital infections, which number from 875,000 to as many as 3.5 million, according to study published in the March/April 2001 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.  The same report also noted that approximately 26,000 people die each year from hospital infections that enter the bloodstream.

Pittet, who is the author of the guidelines for hand hygiene for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has documented the effectiveness of both traditional hand washing as well as alcohol-based hand rubs.  However, he also notes that despite the simplicity of these techniques, health care workers have a wide variety of excuses not using them, such as lack of time, inaccessible washing supplies or sinks, overwork, and the belief that wearing gloves makes hand washing unnecessary. 

Pittet has also noted in an article in the same issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases numerous successful strategies for reducing hospital infections, such as educating both patients and health care workers, making hand-washing facilities easily available, and placing reminders in the workplace.

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