The findings of the United Kingdom-wide study by scientists from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London also reveal a tendency among Britons to lie about their hygiene habits.
Although 95 per cent of people said they washed their hands with soap where possible, 92 per cent of phones and 82 per cent of hands had bacteria on them. Worryingly, 16 per cent of hands and 16 per cent of phones were found to harbour E. coli – bacteria of a faecal origin. Harmful E. coli (Escherichia coli) is associated with stomach upsets and has been implicated in serious cases of food poisoning such as the fatal O157 outbreak in Germany in June.
Hygiene expert Doctor Val Curtis, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "This study provides more evidence that some people still don't wash their hands properly, especially after going to the toilet. I hope the thought of having E. coli on their hands and phones encourages them to take more care in the bathroom – washing your hands with soap is such a simple thing to do but there is no doubt it saves lives."
Faecal bacteria can survive on hands and surfaces for hours at a time, especially in warmer temperatures away from sunlight; it is easily transferred by touch to door handles, food and even mobile phones. From there, the germs can be picked up by other people. Every year, 3.5 million children under the age of five are killed by pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases – and the simple action of washing hands with soap is one of the most effective ways of preventing these illnesses. In developed countries, handwashing with soap helps to prevent the spread of viral infections, such as norovirus, rotavirus and influenza.
Global Handwashing Day - which is held on October 15 every year - aims to transform the action of washing hands with soap into an automatic behaviour, deeply set in our daily lives. Initiatives and events to promote the practice in homes, schools, workplaces and communities are held worldwide.
MEDICA.de; Source: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine