People really suck at washing their hands. In fact, research shows that only about 70 percent of people wash their hands after going to the toilet.
The inescapable grossness of that staggering statistic borders on being comical. But there’s really nothing funny about it, considering people around the world die every day from infectious diseases that could be dramatically mitigated if only people bothered to practise good hand hygiene.
“Seventy percent of the people who go to the toilet wash their hands afterwards,” says physicist and data scientist Christos Nicolaides from the University of Cyprus and MIT.
“The other 30 percent don’t. And of those that do, only 50 percent do it right.”
What are the real-life consequences of this abject failure to keep our hands clean? They’re dire, new research from Nicolaides and his team suggests – particularly with regard to the way that contagion can rapidly spread throughout the world due to air travel, which has the power to turn epidemics into pandemics, and frighteningly quickly.
That’s something health authorities around the world are desperately trying to prevent right now in the grim midst of the Wuhan coronavirus. And it’s something we can help with, the new study finds, if only people washed their hands better at airports.
Previous research has demonstrated that as few as one in five people in airports have clean hands at any given moment, meaning they’ve washed their hands with soap and water, for at least 15 seconds, within the last hour.
That’s a pretty huge problem, given the vast number of things people touch with their hands in airport environments, including trays, railings, touch panels, doors, and much more.