Concern of Swine Flu sees the Use of Antibacterial Hand Sanitizer soar

Sanitizing hand wipes await patrons entering a Canton Safeway as well as in other areas of the grocery store. Dispensers are becoming common in office buildings, hospitals and schools as more people are mindful of the H1N1 virus and the debate about whether using soap and water is adequate.

When Sandy Summers picks up her children - ages 6 and 10 - at elementary school, they're greeted with squirts of hand sanitizer.

"When they get in the car, I put a glob on their hands," said the nurse, who lives in Homeland. "If they're going to eat a snack in the car, I make them use some. ... If I go to the grocery store, when I get in the car, the first thing I do is use the sanitizer. If I forget to use it before I touch the steering wheel, I put a whole bunch on my hands and just wipe it all over the steering wheel.

"With the flu season approaching, I find that we're using it more."

The germ-killing gel, foam and spray is suddenly everywhere, with dispensers bolted to walls in supermarkets, hospitals and kindergarten classrooms, with giant bottles standing guard at church services, with tiny ones stowed in purses, briefcases and backpacks. Fears of H1N1 flu have led the state to install dispensers in the public areas of all 56 of its office buildings.

Hand sanitizer has grown into a more than $112 million-a-year industry in the United States, and sales have been rising, much of it due to the swine flu pandemic. With the mantra "wash your hands" being practically shouted from the rooftops - President Barack Obama has encouraged it, while Sesame Street's Elmo is sharing the message in public service announcements - many people are using alcohol-based sanitizer as a quick and convenient alternative to good old soap and water.

And while some efforts are being made to more frequently disinfect surfaces where the swine flu virus may live - subway cars and buses in Washington are undergoing weekly cleansings - governments and businesses are putting out sanitizer in hopes that people will protect themselves and others around them by actually using the stuff. Liberally.

"Everyone has a role to play in stopping the spread of flu," said David Paulson, spokesman for the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "Everyone has to take personal responsibility. That means keeping clean, covering your cough, getting the vaccine."

The conventional wisdom among public health officials is that hand sanitizer works well, but soaping up at the sink is best because it is the only way to wash off dirt. But others say hand sanitizer may actually be better, especially since so few people wash their hands properly and because the gels are always at the ready when you have sneezed or pushed an elevator button or turned a doorknob.

"It's actually better than soap," said Dr. Philip M. Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology and immunology at New York University Langone Medical Center. "Soap and water does not kill germs. Soap and water washes them off your skin. ...

"The best thing you can do for yourself is wash appropriately with soap and water, 15 to 20 seconds," he said. "[But] most people don't wash appropriately because they don't do it long enough, suds up appropriately, don't get in between the digits."

Studies have shown for years that people don't wash their hands as often or as well as they should.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers only work if their alcohol concentration is greater than 60 percent (some products have 40 percent), experts say. Less is known about those marketed as alcohol-free.

In some places, schools have banned the use of alcohol-based sanitizers because of their alcohol content and concerns about accidental or even intentional ingestion.

Still, few see much downside to the ubiquity of sanitizers.

"The hand sanitizer tends to be more convenient. It tends to be less of an issue of drying [out] your hands," said Dr. Richard Boehler, chief medical officer at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson. "If you're washing your hands 20 to 30 times a day ... hand sanitizers seem to do a better job of keeping the skin intact."

Boehler said the recent swine flu outbreak has not changed St. Joseph's emphasis on hand sanitizer. The hospital became vigilant about its use several years ago after cases of hospital-acquired MRSA infections (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) were becoming a problem. Boehler said the religious use of hand sanitizer among staff cut MRSA infections by 50 percent.

"Our staff use it before they enter a patient's room and after as they are leaving," he said. "You'll find it all over. You'll see signs encouraging it. I wouldn't say we're fanatical, but we're really vigilant about it and vigilance is what you need."

Sales of hand sanitizer have been rising along with fears of the swine flu.

For the 12 weeks ending Aug. 9, sales in the category were up 19 percent from a year earlier, according to Information Resources Inc., a Chicago-based market research firm. The data include supermarkets, drugstores and mass-market retailers, excluding Walmart.

"The gold standard is, of course, soap and water," said Brian Sansoni, a spokesman for the Washington-based Soap and Detergent Association, an industry trade group. "But let's face it, we're not always around soap and water in our daily travels. The good thing is the sanitizer products are portable. You can't always take the soap and water with you."

Since it is made with alcohol, hand sanitizer - when used properly - kills most every germ it comes in contact with, unlike some antibacterial soap products that have led to worries about antibiotic resistance (a claim Tierno dismisses). The main thing it won't kill, Boehler said, is the intestinal bacteria Clostridium difficile, so staff who deal with patients with diarrhea must use soap and water.

Sanitizer kills down to the DNA of bacteria or viruses, Tierno said, meaning there is little chance of creating resistant organisms. But he cautions that just as with hand washing, hand sanitizers need to be used properly. Be sure to use a quarter-sized dollop and rub it on the top and bottom of the hand, between the fingers and into the nail bed, he said.

Still, Dr. Allison E. Aiello, a professor at University of Michigan School of Public Health who has studied hand sanitizer, said while there is a benefit to good hand hygiene, no studies have been done to see whether sanitizers or soap and water are more effective at reducing the spread of influenza. But, she said, sanitizer "does not seem to be inferior."

Hand washing alone won't protect from the flu this fall, Aiello said, because the respiratory illness is spread by water droplets and a sneeze sends those droplets far and wide with great speed. She hopes people will be sure to sneeze into their sleeves and stay home if they are sick in order to slow the virus.

Kids are learning proper respiratory etiquette at a young age, Boehler said, but adults have been slow to catch on.

Hand Sanitizing tips
Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol.
Use a dime- to quarter-size dollop of the sanitizer. Make sure to cleanse the top and bottom of hands, in between the fingers and in the nail bed.
Try not to sneeze or cough into hands. This only promotes the spread of the flu. Use your sleeves when possible.

Resource: www.baltimoresun.com


Anonymous said...

There’s actually nothing confusing about the issue of hand sanitizers when considering that aside from (4) federal agencies, (2) divisions of the US Military, and more than 1000 schools throughout the US have prohibited alcohol-based hand sanitizer and are procuring only non-alcohol hand sanitizer products.

We know this because many of the above groups have contacted us unsolicited for our products—after officials concluded that
while alcohol hand sanitizers might kill germs, they are a completely counter-intuitive product when realizing there are alternative products readily available.
1. Alcohol destroys protective skin cells
2. Alcohol causes skin to become dry/irritated; increasing risk of exposure to easily-transmitted germs/viruses
3. Alcohol has no efficacy if applied to dirty/soiled hands. This is exactly why companies such as Purell advise “wash hands before applying”
4. If one is to wash hands before applying, then why would you put alcohol into a kids hands thereafter??
5. Alcohol loses its germ killing effectiveness within seconds after applying to the skin.
6. Flammable.
7. Potentially toxic.
8. Cannot be applied to skin that may have cuts/abrasions

The vast majority of non-alcohol hand sanitizer products use the exact same active ingredient that can be found in Bactine antiseptic or J&J’s Bandaid brand Foaming Antiseptic. As such, the efficacy of non-alcohol hand sanitizing products with regard to the broad spectrum of pathogens (including H1N1( is well-documented. And when considering that these products:
1. Provide extended persistency
2. Non-drying/non-irritating
3. Antiseptic
4. Non-flammable
5. Non-toxic

It’s otherwise a pretty simple decision to make when deciding what makes sense to put into our kids hands.
Don't take our word for it..visit a good blog on the topic: http://www.handhygienefacts.blogspot.com

MGS Brands, Inc.
d/b/a MGS Soapopular
2490 Black Rock Turnpike
Fairfield, Connecticut 06825
Global License: Hy5 alcohol-free hand sanitizer http://www.hy5sanitizer.com
US Distributor: Soapopular brand, the #1 Alcohol-Free hand sanitizer

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know there is a a new hand sanitizer, which is FDA compliant. (I've done my research).

I have tried it, and it's pretty sweet. It's non-alcohol based, which is nice because it doesn't make you smell like alcohol and it doesn't dry out your hands. Plus, I am not sure how good putting alcohol on kids hands is...

Purel kills bacteria for 18 seconds, this one last for 8 hours. It protects you against ecoli, salmonella, and other bactieria and germs.

Go here: www.skinwearshop.com -- you can look it over and see if you like it. It does smell nice though and does what it says.

evss said...

Nice post. I use Anti-Bacterial Hand Wash. It contains a humectant, which keeps the skin moist and supple, guarding against dermatitis, which can be prevalent when washing hands many times a day. Thank you!!!