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Hand sanitizers help stop spread of germs

This photomicrograph shows bacterial cells that were isolated from campus and treated with hand sanitizer spray. Live cells are colored green and dead cells are colored red.

Mom always said to wash your hands before eating, and there’s plenty of reason to do so. According to the Centers for Disease Control, proper hand washing can drastically reduce the spread of bacteria and viruses.

Gale Spencer, distinguished teaching professor of nursing, and Alex Rickard, assistant professor of biological sciences, know that good hygienic practice, including washing your hands, will cut down on the spread of germs and, therefore, the number of people likely to become ill.

Spencer chairs the University’s Pandemic Flu Committee, which is developing the University’s plan in the event of a pandemic. Included in the plan is the installation of hand sanitizers in all retail and resident dining facilities on campus, including kiosks and concession stands.

“We’re in the final stages of planning and will forward our completed document to the president for approval,” Spencer said, “but the committee felt it was important to get primary prevention started on campus in terms of hand sanitizers.”

Installation is complete and the campus community is encouraged to use the sanitizers.
“This is one way we can prevent illness,” Spencer added. “It’s primary prevention, rather than waiting for the flu to come.”

One of Rickard’s undergraduate students, Katelyn Colacino, this summer conducted research into bacteria and where they are found on campus, testing elevator buttons, keyboards, doorknobs and other common areas. The results were not surprising, and back up what we already know, Rickard said.

“Bacteria are omnipresent. They’re everywhere. On doorknobs, keyboards…,” he said. “Hand sanitizers will help prevent the transfer of many of these bacteria from surfaces to hands and from person to person. This includes the few bacterial species that have the potential to cause illness.”

“The flu is a virus, but we’re using the spray in order to prevent people from picking up flu viral particles and then putting them in their mouths when they eat,” Spencer said. “It’s not going to kill the flu virus, but it will help prevent the spread, and if people use them and keep their hands clean, 80 percent of infection can be contained.”

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control at

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Last Updated: 10/14/08