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Hollywood film helps spread the hand hygiene message16th of November 2011
A Hollywood blockbuster released this autumn underlines the importance of good hand hygiene.
Contagion, which stars Matt Damon and Kate Winslet, is about an incurable virus that is spread via common hand-touch sites such as door handles, drinking glasses and lift buttons.
One key transmitter of the virus is a chef in Macau who shakes hands with a future victim immediately after preparing contaminated food.
The dangers of cross-infection from contaminated is highlighted by Kate Winslet's character in the film, who points out: "The average person touches their face three to five times every waking minute. In between we're touching the door knobs, water fountains and each other."
According to Dr Val Curtis of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine the film feeds our natural fear of pathogens.
"We have an innate disgust towards germs - these tiny near-invisible things - in the same way that we have an innate fear that helps us keep away from large predators," she said. "So our behaviour at a subconscious level is driven by disease-avoidance."
She says we have a particular fear of bugs that originate from alien environments, and this can sometimes be counter-productive in international facilities such as airports. "Some people may be so subconsciously repelled by the idea of contracting a foreign disease that they seek to minimise their time and contact with surfaces in the public bathroom by skipping hand-washing altogether," she adds.
"We seem increasingly to view infection as a threat that comes from outside ourselves - but disease and disgust weave themselves right through society."