hand washing

A Clean Breakaway (A Post-Trip Blog Part III)

By Elias Rodriguez

Docked at Bermuda’s Sandys parish, Norwegian Breakaway ran a clean house with a welcome zeal for good hygiene.

Docked at Bermuda’s Sandys parish, Norwegian Breakaway ran a clean house with a welcome zeal for good hygiene.

All aboard with Captain Clean! New York City is now the homeport of a brand new cruise ship, the Norwegian Breakaway, a ship that my family and I vacationed on this summer as noted in my earlier blog entries. The ocean liner was inaugurated in 2013 and is justifiably proud of a plethora of earth-friendly technology and energy saving bells and whistles.

As a first-time cruiser, I found one low-tech feature onboard to be tremendously prescient and comforting. Hand sanitizer stations are strategically located throughout the ship. The small discreet blue gel machines are a ubiquitous reminder to practice good personal hygiene and wash, wash, wash. Is a hand washing machine an odd thing to notice on a cruise across the Atlantic Ocean? Not if you potentially end up with diarrhea and vomiting.

Given the high media attention whenever there is a gastrointestinal outbreak on a cruise ship, I was gratified that our cruise line was extremely attentive to cleanliness and demonstrated a zeal for hand cleaning and disinfection. Sea sicknesses is largely weather contingent and a fact of life on the rolling and rollicking high seas. On the other hand, nobody wants to ruin their hard-earned vacation due to an avoidable illness.

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control has a comprehensive vessel sanitization program with tips on avoiding noroviruses. Sharing public areas with 4,000+ plus fellow mariners in a confined space over the course of a week can breed innumerable opportunities for contamination to spread and create an outbreak. To avoid potential illnesses onboard or on land, common sense tips include washing your hands often, especially before meals.

Norwegian takes this idea seriously and it shows. Besides the hundreds of hand sanitizing stands, a hand-washing station was built into the main entrance of the massive buffet area (Garden Café) that comprises a significant area of the aft portion of deck 15. On every floor, signs inside each restroom ask that one wash, use hand blowers and then use a paper towel to open the door handle upon exiting as an extra measure of safety. Waste baskets are located just outside the restroom for disposal of the paper towels.

As if this were not enough of a precaution, when entering or leaving the ship at port each passenger is greeted by (ever cheerfully smiling) crew members who hand you (by the use of tongs) a wet sanitized cloth towel for a quick hand cleansing. This cruise line leaves no excuse for anyone not to wash or sanitize their hands several times a day.

Without question, the cruise line’s philosophy on cleanliness was clearly conveyed. I kind of felt like placing hand sanitizers in every room at home, though it would be difficult to match my wife’s color schemes. Wherever you chose to vacation, I hope you keep it clean and have a healthy trip.

About the Author: Elias serves as EPA Region 2’s bilingual public information officer. Prior to joining EPA, the proud Nuyorican worked at Time Inc. conducting research for TIME, LIFE, FORTUNE and PEOPLE magazines. He is a graduate of Hunter College, Baruch College and the Theological Institute of the Assembly of Christian Churches in NYC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Powerful Medicine

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By Lina Younes

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español… ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

I’ve been following recent reports on the flu outbreak across the United States. While seasonal influenza usually peaks in January and February, this year emergency rooms across the country have been reporting an increased number of hospitalizations of patients with severe flu-like symptoms early in the season. So what can people do to protect themselves? Well, first of all, if you haven’t done so already, you should get the vaccine for this year’s seasonal flu. Furthermore, good hygiene practices are powerful tools to stay healthy during flu season and year round.

What are some of the preventive measures that you should take immediately?

  • Wash your hands well and often.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing. Preferably cough into your elbow.
  • When you use a tissue, throw it away and then wash your hands, again.
  • In the absence of soap and water, you may use a hand sanitizer to clean your hands.
  • If you are sick with the flu, stay home. Don’t spread your germs.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Other healthy habits: eat well, drink plenty of fluids, get enough sleep, and stay active.

I can’t reiterate enough the importance of washing your hands to prevent getting the flu. Did you know that the flu virus can live between two to eight hours on a hard surface? That might make you think twice when touching some items shared by many people like a door knob, elevator buttons, an office phone, a computer keyboard, public bathrooms, etc. Personally, what I’ve been doing lately after I wash my hands in a public bathroom is that I take the same paper towel that I used to dry my hands to open the bathroom door and/or press the elevator button. While I haven’t done an official science experiment on this issue, I have noticed that I have had fewer colds since I adopted that common practice. It has definitely worked for me. Hope it works for you, too.

Do you have any healthy tips that you would like to share with us? My parting words of wisdom: wash your hands! Stay healthy.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Preventive Medicine: Wash Your Hands!

By Lina Younes

With the start of the new school year, parents with young children are starting to resume their daily school routine. We’ve made sure that our children have all the necessary supplies and items required for a successful year. While we want our children to excel academically, there is one piece of advice that we can give them to ensure a healthy school year as well. What may that be? Very simple. We should teach them to wash their hands well and often.

Without basic hygiene practices, germs can easily be transmitted by hand-to-hand and hand-to-surface contact. Children with runny noses or who have not washed their hands after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing can easily transmit germs to their friends by hand-to-hand contact, putting their hands on their desks, or using common school supplies. While we all want to promote sharing, germs are something that we don’t want to share!

So what are some words of wisdom that we can impart to our children?

  • Wash your hands before eating your food.
  • Wash your hands after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing.
  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
  • Wash your hands after petting your dog or cat.
  • Wash your hands after playing outside.

Young children should also be reminded that washing hands well doesn’t mean to simply get their hands wet. They need to wet their hands well with clean running water, apply soap, lather and scrub their hands and fingers well for about 20 seconds or so. If they don’t want to count, how about having them hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice while their washing their hands? Then, they should rinse the soap out and dry well with a clean towel or air dry. These tips apply to children of all ages. We all can prevent the spread of disease by washing out hands.

May you have a healthy school year.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.