Feb 082012

Lately Olive Crazy has been masquerading as her normal self, Mary Squires, medical stop loss and self-funded health benefits lobbyist. While working at the Capitol I had the occasion to witness a kerfuffle between two doctors, one was a Doctor of Osteopathy who runs an emergency room at a large Georgia hospital and the other was a Medical Doctor who practices Internal Medicine. Their disagreement was about the value of hand sanitizers versus hand washing with soap and water.

The public parts of their disagreement were made from the rostrum of the House of Representatives on consecutive days. Here are their statements.

Doctor #1 (unaware that he was starting a kerfuffle)

“Just as the medical tip of the day … the antiseptic hand gels that you see around are good for killing viruses, but they’re no good for certain bacterial infections. If you are in contact with somebody with severe diarrhea, for example, you need to use soap and water to get those spores off your hands that will not be inactivated by the alcohol in the gels. So, soap and water for some situations with soap being the active ingredient.”

Doctor #2 (having taken exception to the above statement)

“I did want to clarify from yesterday about using the hand sanitizers … It does take care of almost every virus, almost every bacteria out there. There is one exception with Clostridium Difficile Colitis, and that is not a very common illness, but it is becoming more common. So certainly hand washing is the preference, but if that is not available, then using the hand sanitizers is the preference.”

Statement #1 is entirely correct and statement #2 is correct in part – the last sentence. I am not really sure why Doctor #2 felt compelled to add his statement since, from what I understand, he has little experience with infectious disease, and Doctor #1 has lots. Maybe it was a salvo in the ongoing MD versus DO war, maybe someone was offended that Doctor #1 said ‘diarrhea’ from the rostrum, or maybe Doctor #2 wanted badly to say Clostridium Difficile Colitis. Who knows.

This is a very important subject and seems to inflame passions especially from the commercial hand sanitizer industry (I hear a piggy bank rattling somewhere). I published two articles in September 2011, Before Handling Food, Wash Your Hands With … and 5 Tips to Protect Your Family From Foodborne Illnesses. Each is a result of solid research from the US National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration. I am going to repost Before Handling … below, but if you haven’t done so please read 5 Tips

“Medical professionals I met while recovering from salmonella say there is a rise in foodborne illnesses in the United States, and the rise is due to misinformation. The misinformation is that hand sanitizers are as good as soap and water for cleaning hands. This is untrue. The worst part is that this untruth has been known for over a decade by the US Food and Drug Administration and other governmental agencies, yet manufacturers of hand sanitizers are still permitted to advertise their claim of killing up to 99.9% of germs. The claim is for surfaces, like counter tops, but not for skin.

I’m not going to go into the whys and wherefores of all this mess, because the point is – before handling food, wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. When moving from meat to vegetables, meat to meat, and vegetables to vegetables, etc. wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. After going to the toilet, taking a smoke break, texting your roommate, changing your child’s diaper, touching anything, and before handling food, wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Now, before you leave the computer to go munch on some olives or dip some crusty bread in extra virgin olive oil from that freshly opened bottle of Arbequina – go wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds.”

May the sun shine through your branches.