PA Department of Health Encourages Residents to Practice Hand Hygiene as Holidays Approach

HARRISBURG, PA — Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine is encouraging residents to practice proper hand hygiene as the holidays approach. Proper handwashing can reduce respiratory illnesses, such as colds, by approximately 21 percent.

“December is a wonderful time of the year to get together with friends and family to celebrate the holidays,” Dr. Levine said. “During these gatherings, it is essential to remember to wash your hands properly to prevent the spread of germs. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. We encourage everyone to practice proper hand hygiene to reduce the spread of germs and the sicknesses that may come with them.”

Germs like salmonella, E. coli and norovirus can get on our hands after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, or touching raw meat. They can also be spread by touching a surface that has germs on it, either from coughing or sneezing, or through some other form of contamination. When these germs get onto hands and are not washed off, they can be spread from person to person and make people sick.

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To prevent the spread of germs, it is recommended that everyone follow these five steps to make sure you are washing your hands the right way:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water;
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap. Make sure you wash the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails;
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds—about the time it takes you to hum “Happy Birthday;”
  • Rinse your hands well under warm running water; and
  • Dry your hands using a paper towel if possible. Then use your paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door if needed.

Even though washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs, they are not always available. In these situations, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Apply hand sanitizer and rub your hands together vigorously for at least 15 seconds. Hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands and can help you avoid getting sick.

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For more information on handwashing and staying healthy, visit

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

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