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GMS Krankenhhyg Interdiszip. 2007 Sep 13;2(1):Doc25.

Importance of disinfection as a means of prevention in our changing world hygiene and the home.

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London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.


Contrary to expectation, the risks of infection are growing rather than declining, even in everyday life. After all, who is able to make a distinction between cleanliness and hygiene? This situation is further compounded by the growing number of persons who are susceptible to infections. If one wants to combat infectious diseases in an economically feasible and consistent manner, public support must be sought. In turn, the public have a right to be informed in a proper and responsible manner. The difference between "dirt" and "contamination" must be highlighted once again.To create a forum for everyday hygiene, an international expert working group was set up ( The hallmark of this group is its holistic view of hygiene in the family setting, something that is not true in the case of most public health sectors. Based on the latest study results, the International Forum for Hygiene (IFH) has coined a new motto "Selective Hygiene", and evaluates the causes of infection so as to be able to react in an appropriate manner. The aim cannot be routine, daily repetitive decontamination of all potentially dangerous microbes that are found in a normal household, but rather selective reaction to important transmission processes, i.e. hands and foodstuffs, kitchen, bathroom and toilet. The motto can be summarized as follows: "Do the right thing at the right time". This, however, calls for an understanding of the risks and of effective procedures for microbial reduction. Depending on the respective circumstances, hands can be washed with running water or by using a hand disinfectant. Even experts must learn that hygiene in the home must be evaluated differently from that of the hospital setting. The comparatively lower risk is offset by markedly less awareness of the risks involved. These risks can be significantly increased by any members of the household who are ill. Hence in some cases it is advisable to use disinfectants in the home too - even if it is claimed in certain quarters that we have become "too clean", and have thus lower immunity. Study data demonstrate that disinfectants have become indispensable in the household in the context of "selective hygiene strategies" so as to prevent infectious diseases.


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