Wipes and gels no match for soap and water

Updated: Apr 21, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: Hand gels and wipes are no substitute for soap and water when it comes to hygiene during visit to farms, according to health experts.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) has issued the warning ahead of Easter, when many families visit farms.

The experts said that only thoroughly washing hands with soap and water could remove the dangerous bacteria that can be transmitted by animals, reports the Telegraph.

“Visiting a farm is a very enjoyable experience for both children and adults alike but it’s important to remember that contact with farm animals carries a risk of infection because of the bacteria - or germs - they naturally carry,” said Dr Bob Adak, an expert in gastrointestinal disease.

“It is very important to avoid direct contact with animal droppings and also to be aware of the importance of good hand hygiene. As soon as you have finished touching the animals it is very important to wash your hands using soap and hot water and then dry them thoroughly. Children should be supervised when doing this as they are more at risk of serious disease.

“Visitors should be aware that using sanitising gels is not a substitute for washing hands as gels may fail to remove contamination in the way that soap and running water can. However using sanitising gels following handwashing with soap and water may provide extra benefit,” he added.

According to the HPA, there are about three outbreaks of gastrointestinal disease each year linked to petting farms. They typically start when visitors come into contact with germs from animal faeces, either on the animals themselves or on contaminated surfaces.

Sanitisation gels, which often contain alcohol, are thought to be effective in normally clean places such as offices and hospitals. But they are not powerful enough to remove the bacteria found in

animal faeces that can be spread at farms and zoos.

Running water is said to help wash away dirt as does the vigorous action of thorough hand-washing.

“Gels are better than nothing and can be used if you don’t have access to soap and water, but they’re second-best,” said bacteriologist Prof Hugh Pennington.

ANI