HEALTH

Study: Hand sanitizer use in schools reduces flu illness, absenteeism

BY Michael Johnsen

PHILADELPHIA — A hand and respiratory hygiene program including frequent use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer helped reduce illness caused by influenza A, and reduced the number of missed school days in elementary school children, according to a study in the November issue of the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal.

"Respiratory hygiene education and the regular use of hand sanitizer can be an important adjunct to influenza vaccination programs to reduce the number of influenza A infections among children," stated Samuel Stebbins of the University of Pittsburgh, author of the study.

In the study, five Pittsburgh elementary schools were assigned to receive a five-step training "cough etiquette and hand hygiene" program. In the program, called "WHACK the Flu," children were taught:

  • (W)ash or sanitize your hands often;
  • (H)ome is where you stay when you are sick;
  • (A)void touching your eyes, nose and mouth;
  • (C)over your coughs and sneezes; and
  • (K)eep your distance from sick people.

Another five schools received no special hygiene training. During the school year, children who developed a flu-like illness were tested to determine if they had influenza, and whether the cause was influenza A or B virus. In tests performed in 279 children with flu-like illness, 104 confirmed cases of influenza were identified.

The program was successful in getting kids to use hand sanitizer regularly. Average use was 2.4 times per day, compared with four recommended times (on arrival at school, before and after lunch, and when leaving school).

Schools assigned to "WHACK the Flu" had a significant 52% reduction in the rate of confirmed illness caused by influenza A. However, there was no significant difference in the overall rate of laboratory-confirmed influenza, or in the rate of illness caused by influenza B.

Along with the decrease in influenza A, there was a 26% reduction in total school absences. The hygiene program also was linked to possible improvements in other school attendance measures, including a lower rate of absences during flu season.

Although the "WHACK the Flu" program didn’t lower the overall influenza rate, it did achieve approximately a one-half reduction in influenza A and a one-fourth reduction in school absences. The researchers aren’t sure why there was no decrease in influenza B — possibly because of "basic differences in the biology or epidemiology" of influenza B, or because it occurred later in the flu season and mainly in younger children.

The results showed that a hygiene education program including hand sanitizer "can be implemented successfully on a large scale within urban schools to reduce absenteeism and the incidence of influenza A," Stebbins noted. He believed the study supports current recommendations for respiratory hygiene — including hand sanitizer — during any type of flu outbreak, and as part of an overall influenza prevention strategy in schools.

 


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Americans least able to afford health care are the heaviest smokers

BY Michael Johnsen

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Almost one-third of Americans who have not had enough money to pay for health care and/or medicine in the past 12 months are smokers, according to the October 2011 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The percentage of smokers is cut in half (14.2%) when it comes to the population that can afford to pay for health care and/or medicine in the past 12 months. Of the Americans without a personal doctor, 27.5% smoke.

“As the economic burden of smoking continues to greatly affect the U.S. healthcare system and the productivity of our businesses and communities, more employers are turning to mandates and incentives to get their employees to curb their nicotine addiction,” stated Ben Leedle, Jr., Healthways president and CEO. “The October WBI smoking and basic access numbers reveal an alarming disparity in the U.S. population, and show an immediate need for individuals to take steps to improve their own well-being, proactively controlling these costs."

October data also revealed that of the 20% of Americans that did not have enough money to buy food within the past 12 months, 34.9% are smokers. The percentage of Americans who smoke drops drastically down to 13.8% for those who can afford to buy food. The same pattern is observed when looking at those who did/did not have enough money to provide adequate shelter in the past 12 months.

 


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mikemorgan says:
Nov-21-2011 02:13 pm

Certain people are always going to smoke as long as cigarettes are legal tobacco products, and the numbers might even be higher since some won't admit to smoking even ananymously. Electronic cigarettes are more popular and accepted, so see www.ecigwerks.blogspot.com for more.

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Factor Nutrition presents study on supplement supporting memory

BY Michael Johnsen

BOSTON — Factor Nutrition Labs on Monday presented a study supporting supplementation with its FocusFactor product to improve brain function before the Gerontological Society of America.

The clinical study of 89 adults used the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test, a standardized neuropsychological test and one of the most commonly used tests of memory in psychopharmacology research, the company stated. The study also used CogScreen, a computer-administered neuropsychological test battery developed for the Federal Aviation Administration for evaluating the cognitive functioning of pilots.

The mean age of subjects who participated was 49.1 years. The study was conducted over a six-week period. The clinical study of FocusFactor was sponsored by Factor Nutrition and was conducted by Cognitive Research, a full-service contract research organization.

“The clinical study demonstrated that, compared to placebo, FcousFactor improved abilities referred to as memory, concentration and focus in healthy adults,” Cognitive Research president Gary Kay said. “Following six weeks of treatment, subjects who received FocusFactor had a mean increase in recall of 6.5 words compared to 4.5 words for those who received placebo.”


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