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New research shows that men were less likely to wash their hands than women, and only 5% of people wash their hands long enough to kill germs
Proper hand washing is the most effective way to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, according to the CDC. Almost half of all foodborne illness outbreaks are due to poor hand washing. Yet, only 5% of the 3,749 people observed in this study washed their hands long enough to kill disease-causing germs. Trained students unobtrusively observed patrons who use bathrooms in bars, restaurants, and other public places. Overall, 10% of the people did not wash their hands at all and 33% did not use soap. Men were less likely to wash their hands than women, 15% vs. 7%. They were less likely than women to use soap when they washed their hands, 50% vs. 78%. The CDC recommends 15 to 20 seconds of vigorous hand washing using soap and water. In this study the average length of hand washing was only about 6 seconds. People were less likely to wash their hands when the sink was dirty, but were more likely to do so when there were signs encouraging hand washing. A link to a CDC primer on hand washing is included.