A survey showed that only three out of 10 Koreans wash their hands with soap after using the toilet. The figure is only half that of other advanced countries and it reveals hidden vulnerability of seasonal infectious disease control in summer, such as food poisoning and epidemic eye infection.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) conducted a survey of 1,000 Korean male and female adults. In the survey on hand washing status and recognition survey last year, only 32.3 percent answered, I wash my hands with soap, which is half of the corresponding number in the U.S. (67 percent). Washing hands with water washes away only 88.0 percent of germs. Washing with soap increases the elimination rate up to 99.8 percent.
Therefore, hygiene experts emphasize that hand washing with soap is the best way to prevent contagious diseases such as dysentery, typhoid, H1N1 influenza and pneumonia. A best example is the 2009 global pandemic of H1N1 influenza. The H1N1 infection rate drastically dropped in Korea since the health authorities strongly advised hand washing as the most critical countermeasure.
The problem is that most Koreans are well aware of the importance of hand washing but they do not practice it. In the same survey, 90.6 percent of respondents said that hand washing contributes to the prevention of infectious diseases.
Experts selected several causes that may hamper the establishment of hand washing habits. Representative causes include unclean basins in the public toilets and Koreas unique hasty culture, even hurrying in the bathroom.
Lee Moo-shik, professor of Preventive Medicine Department at Konyang University Hospital, said, "It is necessary to make a convenient environment for hand washing. Minor moves such as keeping soaps clean at public toilets and providing places to keep personal belongings while washing hands can boost the rate of hand washing using soap.
Virus on human hands can survive for at least three hours. Washing hands with running water using soap at least eight times a day can maximize the effect of contagious disease prevention. Especially, it is recommended to use liquid soap for better personal hygiene, rather than a solid bar where germs can proliferate.