Outbreak of gastroenteritis due to increased use of hand antiseptics


One of the most effective measures against Covid-19 is to wash your hands with soap and water. This will also help prevent some viruses from spreading. HoweverSince Covid-19 makes people wash their hands a lot, dry hand sanitizers or an alcohol-based disinfectant are an alternative. This can inadvertently cause an increase in intestinal disease.

Several countries are reporting increasing rates of viral gastroenteritis in recent months. Experts say that the use of a lot of hand sanitizers, while helping to protect people from the effects of many pathogens, may be part of the cause.

New data, published by Victorian health authorities in Australia, are reporting outbreaks of gastroenteritis four times more than the 5-year average, in child care facilities in in the first few months of 2021. Other countries such as New Zealand and Taiwan also noticed a sudden increase in the outbreak of norovirus (virus causing gastroenteritis, vomiting, diarrhea, …) in recent months.

Gastritis is spread by touching the mouth of an infected person or surface. Parents with young children are certainly familiar with the disease as the virus is widely spread among children.

Dry hand sanitizers and alcohol-based disinfectants do not have the same antibacterial, impurities as washing hands with soap under the tap.

Cathy Moir, Chair of the Australian Food Safety Information Council, explains: “Norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhea. Cases occur all year round but peak in winter possibly because that’s when we tend to stay at home more and make the virus more contagious. Norovirus outbreaks also often occur when people are in intimate living spaces, such as nursing facilities for the elderly and children, hospitals, cruise ships and community sporting events.

Exactly why the number of people infected with norovirus is growing is unclear, but some experts think the high use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers may play a role. When the Covid-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, more people than ever started using hand sanitizers regularly. Some estimates suggest that demand for this product increased 16-fold during the first few months of the pandemic.

“I suspect many of us have been a bit subjective when it comes to using only dry alcohol-based hand sanitizer instead of washing your hands with soap and water. However, although hand sanitizer is convenient, it doesn’t work as well for norovirus prevention like thorough hand washing, ”hypothesized gastroenterologist Vincent Ho.

Researchers have long suspected alcohol-based hand sanitizers might not be as effective as soap in getting rid of norovirus. A 2011 survey of 161 long-term health care facilities in the United States found that those who washed their hands with soap and water more frequently than disinfectants were less likely to experience norovirus outbreaks.

Hand sanitizer does not remove contaminants from dirty hands, says Peter Collignon, an infectious disease expert from the Australian National University. He recommends that everyone think of cleaning their hands before disinfecting with alcohol solutions. Like antiseptic methods, cleaning first is essential, ”says Collignon. You can’t just use some magic solution and your hands become sterile. “

Huong Giang (Source: New Atlas)

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