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Adoption of alcohol hand disinfection in the United States: a personal perspective

Adoption of alcohol hand disinfection in the United States: a personal perspective

Gms Krankenhaushygiene Interdisziplinar 2(1): Doc24

Even though alcohol-based hand disinfectants have been used for decades as a routine measure in Europe, in the USA until recently handwashing was the procedure of choice. Alcohol-based rub products were recommended only if no handwashing facility or running water was available. It was only during the late 80s and early 90s that the advantages of alcohol-based products began to elicit interest. In 1995 Larsen published new application guidelines for hand disinfection and in 1996 the CDC included alcohol-based hand disinfection in its "Isolation guideline". However, these recommendations were rarely implemented in practice. In 1996 Didier Pittet first gave me a demonstration of alcohol-based rub products at his Geneva hospital, and the following year experts at Lausanne University provided me with the products available at that time. In 1998 and 2000 I had the opportunity to exchange information and experiences with numerous European experts, including Dr. Molitor, who also gave me additional insights into the mechanism of action of such products. As a result of myriad scientific demonstrations, interest in these rub products now began to be expressed in the USA too. In 1999 an interdisciplinary working group for hand hygiene was set up, comprising representatives from CDC's Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC), the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and the Infectious Diseases Society of America, whose intention was to formulate new guidelines for hand hygiene in the healthcare sector. The insights that I gained from Dr. Molitor and from other European experts were of enormous value and helped to weigh up the pros and cons of alcohol-based hand disinfection, both in respect of the different products available and on comparing them with hand washing. The new CDC guideline for hand hygiene was published in 20002 and for the first time in the USA it featured the requirement that alcohol-based rub products be used as the method of choice provided that the hands were not visibly soiled or contaminated with protein-based material. Unfortunately, we have no reliable data, but it is estimated that today up to 95% of doctors and nurses in American hospitals preferentially use alcohol-based rub products - thus reflecting a situation that has long been common practice in Europe.

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Accession: 051387743

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PMID: 20200685

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