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Infectious Diseases

Hand Hygiene

Your health is in your hands—just remember to wash or sanitize them!

A simple thing like a handshake is a warm welcome to a friend – but it’s also sometimes an invitation to germs. In fact, your hands play a major role in the spread of bacteria and viruses that can cause illness.

Think about the things you do each day that brings you into contact with germs – going to the washroom, handling raw meat, touching pets and taking out the garbage. You may have touched food, a telephone, a door knob or money. The list is endless and so are the ways you can pick up and pass along bacteria and viruses that can make you and others sick.

Handwashing or using a hand sanitizer is the best way to prevent illness. It’s not new, but it works because it removes or kills germs before they can find their way into our bodies. As more bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, proper hand hygiene is essential in protecting your health.

Proper Handwashing (Printable Fact Sheet)

To make sure that you are washing your hands properly, use soap and water. Wet your hands. Add soap and rub your hands vigorously together for 15 seconds. Rinse hands and dry with a clean towel, then turn off the tap with the towel. It’s the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps free and remove germs. Also remember to keep nails short and clean, wash wrists and remove watches and jewelry when you wash your hands.

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Proper Hand Sanitizing (Printable Fact Sheet)

Alcohol-based sanitizers and gels (minimum 60% alcohol) are also an option, but should only be used when your hands are not visibly soiled or dirty. This is because they do not remove visible dirt. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. When using a gel or sanitizer, rub it on all surfaces of your hands until they are dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in the gel kills non-visible germs that cause colds and the flu.

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What you can do to stop the spread of germs


When you need to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose or cough away from people around you. Viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs can cause illnesses that can be spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes onto surfaces or people around them. Always cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or cough away from people. Make sure you wash or sanitize your hands after.


Clean shared surfaces often. Cleaning with soap or detergent physically removes surface dirt and large numbers of germs.  Don’t forget to clean commonly touched items like doorknobs, light switches and faucets. Regularly clean your desk and keyboard and avoid eating at your desk.  For more information on household germs, click here.


When you are sick, you can spread your illness to those you come in contact with. Stay home from work if you are sick and keep your children home from school or child care when they have cold or flu symptoms such as fever, runny nose, dry cough, tiredness and muscle aches.  Also, avoid attending extracurricular activities or going to public spaces when sick.

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