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Released: June 23, 2003

Washing Hands Can Prevent Some Illnesses

MANHATTAN, Kan. – One of the easiest ways to prevent illness – washing your hands – is the step that’s most often overlooked, said Karen Penner, Kansas State University Research and Extension food safety specialist.

Lathering hands for 20 seconds and rinsing them in warm water after handling live animals, before and after eating, and before and after handling raw or cooked foods can reduce risks from bacteria, she said.

Washing your hands routinely also can reduce risks from other viruses and pathogens that may be present in the environment – the yard and garden, for example, Penner said.

In the absence of soap and water, carrying a container of anti-bacterial hand cleaner can serve as a substitute. As with anti-bacterial soaps, though, anti-bacterial agents can destroy "good" bacteria as well. While this issue can be debatable, the need to wash hands often is not. It’s an easy way to reduce risks from foodborne – and other – bacteria, the food safety specialist said.

She encourages parents to serve as role models for their children by making hand-washing a habit.

For more information contact a local K-State Research and Extension office or visit


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by:
Nancy Peterson, Communications Specialist
K-State Research& Extension News

Additional Information:
Karen Penner is at 785-532-1672