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SPECIAL HEALTH FEATURE

Wash your hand, prevent Ebola Virus Disease

By Gabriel Benjamin

The Ebola Virus Disease is killing daily in various parts of West Africa. In fact, as at last count, about 1,825 persons have been infected with the deadly Ebola Virus Disease in the last seven months, while over 1,000 persons have been reported dead.

Some may still wonder: Why are there so many causalities? It is simple! Ebola Virus Disease is a highly infectious disease, such that one can contact it just by touching the surface that an infected person had touched previously.

Experts say you only need to have contacts with the body fluids of an infected person – which include sweat, saliva and tears – for you to get infected. It is that deadly.

But as infectious as Ebola is, there are some lifestyle and hygienic habits that one can adopt as an individual, family or organization to reduce one’s risk of contracting it. One of them is hand washing with soap. The importance of washing one’s hands with soap and water to get rid of germs, bacteria and other viruses cannot be overemphasized. This age-long habit has been proved to reduce the risk of getting infections by more than 60 percent.

Many people are aware of washing of hands, but what we are saying is that you should use soap or a disinfectant when you are washing those hands. That is what will kill the virus or bacteria.

Also, the hand is the means by which most infections are contracted. And the average person touches his/her mouth at least 10 times a day. Imagine if you had touched an infected person with your hand unknowingly, and you don’t wash your hand before eating. You have introduced a virus into your body just by being negligent. Science has proved that 70 percent of infections are contracted via the mouth through the hands.

Well, access to portable water is still a challenge in most villages in Sierra Leone. However, one can always improvise with hand sanitizers. They are portable, which means they can be carried in bag, car and in the office.

All organizations with employees that are more than 50 should have hand sanitizers installed in major entry points in their offices because people who live or work in places with a large number of people are at a greater risk of contracting such infections.

Ebola virus control is all about containing contacts. That means you should limit contact with people. But in a work place you cannot limit contact with people; so you promote the use of hand sanitizers, which have been chemically designed with natural disinfectants. It is potent but not poisonous. It is user-friendly and it is absorbed quickly into the skin, unlike when you use water and you have to clean with cloth again, which may now contaminate the hand you just washed. We must encourage more people to key into hygiene.

Any hospital, health centre and clinic that have the safety of its patients and health workers at heart would have had sanitizers installed in each of their wards and facilities by now – including the toilets.

Experts note that the hospital environment remains the easiest place to contract infections and health workers must ensure that they do not become the carrier of the virus, thereby endangering their lives and that of other patients. They insist that hospital owners must sensitize their workforce on the importance of decontamination as a means of infection control.

The standard practice is that a doctor or nurse must wash his/her hands or use sanitizers before examining a patient and after examining the patient. There is no room for compromise now. We should not be seen as people that are careless again. We cannot let our guards down because Ebola is here and it kills its victims faster than we think.

You need to take these strategies seriously, as Ebola is here with us in Sierra Leone. These are times for drastic measures especially if you live in Sierra Leone, the potential economic hotbed of sub-Sahara Africa.

However, it is not just about the Ebola Virus Disease. Hand washing with soap and water has been proved to prevent one from contracting diarrhea, cholera and pneumonia infections, diseases killing more than 100,000 annually in the Africa continent.

Use this week to look at ways you can make your home cleaner and safer for you, your family your community and your country Sierra Leone.

Have a great and, an Ebola free week ahead of you and yours’.