Swapping handwashing for sanitiser ‘partly to blame for gastro outbreak’

12th of May 2021
Swapping handwashing for sanitiser ‘partly to blame for gastro outbreak’

Teaching young children about hand hygiene is crucial - that's the claim being made by Australia's Department of Health in the wake of surging cases of gastroenteritis.

At least 389 outbreaks have been reported in Victoria childcare centres so far this year. And experts believe the use of hand sanitisers in place of soap and water could be partly to blame.

Cases of gastroenteritis in Victoria went up four-fold from the five-year average In March. The state's health authorities have noted that hand sanitiser - while effective against some viruses, such as coronavirus - is not sufficiently effective in preventing viral gastroenteritis.

And Victoria's executive director for communicable disease Dr Bruce Bolam claims that handwashing is still the best method of reducing the spread of the virus. "A good old-fashioned scrub with soap and warm water is the best way to remove the gastro virus from our hands and prevent passing it on to infect others," he said.

According to Australian National University professor of infectious diseases Peter Collignon, there is no point in using hand sanitiser to disinfect the hands without cleaning them first.

"Hand sanitiser does not remove the build-up of dirt and other contaminants," he said. "Like all disinfecting, cleaning first is essential. You can't just dip something in a magic solution and make it sterile. Gastro is one of those examples of sanitiser not working quickly and taking a while to penetrate, so handwashing is important."

Teaching young children about good hand hygiene will be pivotal in stopping the spread, claims the country's Department of Health.



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