By: CHIOMA UMEHA
Ahead of the Global Hand Washing Day on Tuesday, an international research body announced that studies have confirmed that a child infects 50 per cent of his school mates during playtime. The research mission under the sponsorship of soap brand, Safeguard did the study to determine the rate of germ transfer and contamination among school children.
The research mission was conducted by the Beijing Health Technical Research Center using 40 children in an elementary school in China. One child was designated Patient Zero and had his hands marked with ‘a safe fluorescent agent’ representing germs. Within a day period, the child interacted with his friends inside and outside the classroom, performing the usual activities of any school child – studying, playing and eating with his friends. At the end of certain periods, the researchers used a UV light detector to check the children for traces of ‘contamination,’ in order to determine how many children had residue of the fluorescent agent on them at different time intervals and during different activities.
The study found that 62.5 percent of the class were contaminated with the fluorescent agent in 30 minutes of team sport activity. The study further showed that 55 per cent of children were contaminated with the fluorescent agent in 40 minutes of a school bus ride – a percentage that went up to 77.5 per cent, or almost eight out of 10 children, in an hour-long bus ride. Also, 100 per cent of the children were contaminated with the fluorescent agent in one hour of playground activity. The survey further stated that one child can contaminate more than 50 percent of his class in less than one hour of outdoor activities. In a real-life situation, it added, “a child coming home from school has a 50 to 50 chance of being contaminated by disease-causing germs.”
Commenting, the research center’s Dr. Jeffrey Jin, said: “The spread of germs in our highly populated societies is a real danger. A high level of people-to-people interaction leads to greater and faster transfer of germs from person to person, and especially from child to child, because as shown by this experiment, children tend to be very susceptible.” “This widening chain of person-to-person contact and germ transfer could translate into a widening chain of illnesses,” Jin said. This is why doctors recommend frequent hand-washing with anti-bacterial soap, he added. By doing so, “we can break the germ transfer chain and protect children’s health,” Jin stated.
Global Handwashing Day was established in 2001 by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing with Soap (PPPHW), a coalition of ten international stakeholders that includes three multinational consumer goods companies and aid agencies UNICEF and USAID.
This story was published in Newswatch Times on October 17, 2013.