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World Hand Hygiene Day 2018: Preventing sepsis in a targeted manner by hand hygiene

Sepsis is considered the most severe form of acute infections. The disease that is colloquially also referred to as bloodstream infection can lead to life-threatening disorders of the vital functions and to multiple organ failure. According to the Robert Koch-Institute (RKI) sepsis is the most common cause of death due to an infection [1]. Every year, approximately 31 million people throughout the world fall ill with sepsis. And for six million this disease is lethal [2].

The World Health Organization (WHO) takes this explosive situation as reason to actively campaign for sepsis prevention. Hence, this year’s World Hand Hygiene Day on 5 May 2018 runs under the banner “It’s in your hands - prevent sepsis in health care”. Thus, WHO fulfils the demands of the World Health Assembly (WHA) that in its resolution from 26 May 2017 classifies sepsis as primary health concern and declares improved prevention, diagnosis and treatment a global priority [2].

WHO: Call for participation in the World Hand Hygiene Day

With this year’s motto for the World Hand Hygiene Day WHO specifically highlights hand hygiene as important preventive measure. Because consistent hand hygiene is essential to reduce the risk of nosocomial infection and possibly resulting bloodstream infections. However, if hand hygiene is neglected, even a slight injury or a seemingly small procedure may cause a sepsis.

Therefore, WHO calls on healthcare facilities around the globe to participate in the campaign day promoting hand hygiene. Already 20 600 facilities have followed this plea and get involved with the campaign. Interested facilities can simply register for the participation on the WHO website. Additionally, WHO provides various campaign materials such as posters or website banners for download.

Frequent cause of sepsis: Bacterial infections

Also RKI points out that sepsis can basically develop from any infection; however, they particularly often develop from pneumonia, abdominal and urinary tract infections [3]. Common causes are bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli, followed by fungi and viruses [3]. The growing number of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms additionally complicates the treatment of sepsis.

Hand disinfection performed in the right moment reliably inactivates these pathogens and thus prevents infections. Even though healthcare workers know this fact, hand disinfection is often carried out insufficiently. According to WHO the average hand hygiene compliance is 38.7 % worldwide [4].

Skin-friendly hand disinfection and optimised work processes

This number clearly shows: compliance promotion is urgently needed. Two promising approaches to improve the compliance are the use of skin-friendly hand disinfectants and the establishment of optimised work processes in hospitals and clinics. Well-tolerated hand rubs containing skincare substances are used more reliably by employees and therfore increase the compliance. Optimised work processes, where the necessary hygiene measures are trained on the basis of concrete caregiving measures, help employees gain experience and certainty. This was also confirmed by a study: a standardised process for placing a peripheral venous catheter (PVC) increased the compliance from 11.6 % to 57.9 %. The risk of suffering a nosocomial infection and thus a sepsis is considerably reduced.

Use our interactive online game on placing a PVC in a perfectly hygienic way.

1. Accessed on 29 March 2018
2. Accessed on 29 March 2018
3. Robert Koch-Institut, Epidemiologisches Bulletin, 14. September 2017 /Nr. 37.
4. World Health Organization. WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care: a Summary, 2009.