The Director-General of the centre, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu, made the call at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi, Abuja, at a lecture on the importance of hand hygiene in healthcare settings to commemorate the 2021 World Hand Hygiene Day.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the day is annually marked on May 5 to promote clean and hand hygiene in healthcare settings around the world.
The day has “Achieving Hand Hygiene at the Point of Care” as its theme for 2021 and “Seconds Save Lives – Clean Your Hands” as slogan.
Led by global advocacy efforts, the campaign now supports a social movement that helps to keep patients and health workers safe.
Ihekweazu, who was represented by Dr Chinwe Ochu, the NCDC Head of Prevention, Programme and Knowledge Management Department, said that a few seconds could save lives and prevent the transmission of infectious microorganisms by maintaining hand hygiene always.
He explained that “hand hygiene with soap and water is the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19. Hand cleanliness protects our lives. It has become important and relevant than ever.”
The NCDC boss noted that while it had been advocated as one of the most effective ways to prevent infectious diseases, the COVID-19 pandemic had brought home the truth that alongside mask wearing, hand hygiene was the best-known prevention.
He said “since 2019, the NCDC, through the national Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) programme, led the country’s efforts to make hand hygiene day activities a major national event to raise the consciousness of Nigerians.”
Ihekweazu noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had further exposed the risk of care-associated infections in low and middle income countries, particularly in patients admitted to intensive care units.
“This is a major public health problem in Nigeria and has a significant impact on morbidity, mortality and quality of life.
“The national sub-theme for Nigeria this year is “One Nation, One Plan: Turn Nigeria Orange”, he added.
He stressed that this recognised the efforts made since the launch of the ‘Orange Network’ in 2019.
“The Orange Network is a network of dedicated tertiary health facilities in Nigeria supported by NCDC, through the ‘Orange Project’ to become centres of excellence in IPC.
“NCDC recognises that the safety of health workers has to be at the forefront of Nigeria’s response strategy to prevent outbreaks of infectious diseases,” he added.
He explained that in collaboration with relevant government institutions and its partners, the agency had continued to support healthcare workers to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases.
“Now, more than ever before, good hand hygiene must be part of all aspects of healthcare delivery,” he stressed.
Prof. Sa’ad Ahmed, the Chief Medical Director, FMC Jabi, Abuja, said that hand hygiene was one of the most effective ways to reduce the spread of any infectious diseases.
He urged Nigerians to practice regular hand hygiene to stay healthy.
He said “cleaning your hands with alcohol-based hand sanitiser or soap and water is a simple and effective way to protect ourselves from infections.”
The chief medical director added that an effective hand hygiene was not only a key measure for preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases, but reduces the burden of healthcare associated infections and the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
Dr Chioma Dan-Nwafor, an Epidemiologist with the Africa Centre for Disease Control (ACDC), said science had shown that hand hygiene reduces risk of leading causes of child mortality due to infectious syndromes such as sepsis, acute respiratory infection, neonatal tetanus and diarrhoea.
Dan-Nwafor noted that “studies have further demonstrated that the risk of diarrhoea can be reduced by 42 to 47 per cent through hand washing, and was demonstrated during the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak.
“As health workers, we should all be IPC change agents, leading by examples for our patients, patients’ relatives and other healthcare workers, and to the community at large.”
According to her, ACDC from the onset of the pandemic before Nigeria reported its index case convened a IPC workshop for health workers in member states.
“More than 80 participants from 40 countries trained during the preparedness phase in Abuja and Abidjan.
She, therefore, reiterated the commitment of the ACDC to support the global hand hygiene agenda by consolidating on the gains made on IPC during for safe care and ultimately a safer world.
The NCDC lecture, in collaboration with its partners, the Infection Control Africa Network, Nigeria Society for Infection Control, Dr Ameyo Stella Adadevoh Health Trust (DRASA), Africa CDC, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and others, urged Nigerians to promote hand hygiene everywhere they go. (NAN)