Hospital joins WHO personal hygiene promotion campaign

‘CLEAN YOUR HANDS’::The hospital urges pet owners to be aware of the possibility of diseases transmissible from animals to humans and vice-versa

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Sat, May 04, 2013 - Page 3

As part of a global effort to improve personal hygiene, National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) yesterday joined the WHO’s “Saves Lives: Clean Your Hands” campaign to promote the public’s awareness of personal hygiene concerning human-animal interaction.

Following the H7N9 avian influenza outbreak in China, the public are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of frequently washing their hands, the hospital said.

However, birds are not the only kind of animals that people have frequent contact with, the hospital said.

An increasing number of Taiwanese have dogs, cats or other animals as pets, NTU Veterinary Hospital superintendent Liu Chen-hsuan (劉振軒) said.

Since humans and pets live in the same ecosystem, the incidence of zoonoses — diseases transmissible from vertebrate animals to humans and vice-versa — is likely to increase, the hospital said.

Liu said that people now have various kinds of animals as pets, such as Guinea pigs, rabbits, turtles and even lizards, and this wide array of animals could also make humans more susceptible to different kinds of diseases.

“For instance, US researchers have found that pet turtles can be contaminated with salmonella and advise against buying turtles as pets for children,” Liu said, adding that 2.2 million children under the age of five worldwide die of respiratory and gastrointestinal tract infections every year and “improving hand hygiene has been proved to lower the mortality rate.”

NTUH urged pet owners to not only wash their hands after touching their pets, their feces or bodily fluids to avoid infections, but also to wash their hands before touching the pets in order to protect the animals from diseases.