1. What are germs?
do germs travel?
Many pathogenic microorganisms, though not all, can survive for a time outside a host.
However, to thrive (to grow and reproduce quickly) they need all four favorable conditions: warmth, water, darkness, and food. For a species of microorganism to survive, individuals must find a new host or face extinction. The journey from one host to another for many micoorganisms, especially the ones water suppliers are concerned about, is called the fecal-oral route. The pathogens multiply in one host, are excreted from its intestinal tract in solid waste (feces), and must find their way into the digestive tract of another host (through the mouth: oral) before they die from exposure to the elements (light, cold, lack of water or food).
Hand-washing makes a difference
By now, you probably have an idea of how hygiene in general, and hand washing in particular, can reduce the spread of disease. Why is it especially important for health care workers, kitchen workers, or day care providers to practice good hygiene?
The most direct route for bacteria and viruses from one host to another is not to hitch a ride on food or water, but to pass directly from one person to another. This transmission is called direct contact.
Young children, especially, often put their hands or fingers to their mouths. If Robert has a cold or an intestinal illness, and holds hands or shares objects with Justine, the likelihood is high that germs have been passed from him to her. When Justine's hands go to her nose or mouth, the disease has been spread.
Hand washing by either child interrupts the pathway. It is a common sense health practice to wash your hands after using the bathroom, to protect others, or before eating, to protect yourself. If you have a cold or other illness, or are around people who do, it is a good idea to wash your hands more often than usual.
So, remember to wash your hands!