We’ve all heard that one of the best weapons against coronavirus is clean hands.
Hands are the main pathways of germ transmission, so properly washing them with soap and water — or the next best option of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer — for a minimum of 20 seconds is a critical measure to avoid the transmission of harmful germs and prevent infections. This is common sense and it works.
Being in the current grip of coronavirus isn’t the first time the importance of hand hygiene has been touted. It was first championed by Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis in 1847. Semmelweis, who worked in the maternity wards at the Vienna General Hospital, was trying to solve the mystery of childbed fever, a fatal illness affecting women who’d just given birth. After a number of failed attempts to determine its cause, one of the doctor’s colleagues caught the fever and died. Semmelweis realized it was transmissible and introduced some of the first modern medical hygiene practices: mandatory hand washing and sterilization of medical instruments in a chlorine solution.
The impact and importance of handwashing can’t be overstated. The Centers for Disease Control says it is a “do-it-yourself vaccination.” Since it has been proven to drastically reduce the rate of transmission of infection, public health campaigns encouraging clean hands have been rolled out all around the world.
Hand washing even became part of a moral directive for people to serve their nation by practicing good hygiene. From Soviet warnings of the 1920s to the promotion of clean hands equaling good citizenship in America, here are some posters from the past, shown in the gallery below, that remind us of the importance of handwashing. Because washing your hands is a win for everyone, except the germs.