According to latest research, soap and water are much more effective in disinfecting hands when compared to hand sanitizers. In addition, use of hand sanitizers can also cause an outbreak of norovirus and other contagious viral infections. Hand sanitizers, which were initially used as an alternative to soap and water, are now being widely used as the sole cleansers. Although the research is taking its baby steps and a lot more study has to go into it before ascertaining the intensity and magnitude of infections that sanitizers can spread, the study definitely reveals the fact that sanitizers are not as effective as soap and water.
Owing to the fact that use of sanitizers is more convenient, they are being widely used as a substitute for soap and water. In fact, several institutions have encouraged the use of sanitizers. The scenario is often found even in health care institutions and setting, health camps and clinics. However, use of hand sanitizers cannot be linked to development of resistance in bacteria. In this regard, further study is required.
In the study that focuses on hand hygiene, it has come to light that one hundred and sixty one long term health care facilities showed preference to the use of sanitizers. In all such cases, the risk of contracting viral infections has been shown to be increased. The virus was identified as norovirus, which is a virus that attacks the digestive system and causes problems such as gastroenteritis. The outbreak of this health condition was found to be higher in places that encouraged use of sanitizers instead of soap and water. While only 18% of medical facilities that used soap and water reported the outbreak of norovirus, the number of cases shot up to 53% in facilities that used sanitizers. Another interesting aspect that was found was that health care practitioners like the nurses and doctors used alcohol based hand sanitizers more than the others did.
The study has been carried out by Epidemic Intelligence Service, which belongs to CDC (Center for Disease Control) of the United States. Dr. David Blanley, who has auhored the study, said that hand sanitizers are not up to the mark in stopping the spread of norovirus. He continued that the reason for increased outbreaks of norovirus in care homes could be the wide use of hand sanitizers. However, he said that the study was not conclusive since the reports of norovirus outbreaks in care homes could be attributed to enhanced anti-infection measures. It is very possible that outbreak cases in other places are not reported as religiously as care homes do.