Washing Your Hands Is Your First Defense Against Illness – Wash Your Hands Often and Correctly For Optimum Benefit

Most of us engage in dozens of activities everyday that expose us to all kinds of infectious bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The best protection against disease is also the easiest and least expensive step we can take – wash our hands!

Below is a video instructing CNAs (certified nursing assistants) on how to correctly wash their hands. Even though it is intended as instructions for CNAs, I felt it was the best video of all those available on the subject of hand washing on YouTube. It is thorough and the instructions are very clear. Following the instructions you see here will give you and your family the best protection hand washing can provide.

Follow the procedure demonstrated in this video to kill and remove as many germs as possible, helping you to protect yourself and your family from illness

Wash your hands correctly to remove or kill as many germs as possible to keep yourself and your family healthy.  Water temperature is not as important as the rubbing motion and using soap.
Wash your hands correctly to remove or kill as many germs as possible to keep yourself and your family healthy. Water temperature is not as important as the rubbing motion and using soap.

Should You Wash Your Hands In Cold, Warm, or Hot Water? Which Is Best?

In one of my classes at the university on health issues and nutrition, my instructor informed our class that cold water was just as effective for washing hands in most cases as hot water. She said that in fact no human could safely wash their hands in water that is hot enough to kill germs anyway.

If your hands are dirty, greasy, or grimy, warm water, or the hottest water you can reasonably tolerate will be more effective in removing the dirt and grease, but if your hands are not visibly dirty, cold water is just as affective as warm or hot water for removing germs. Some institutions, such as the university I attend, no longer provide hot water from the faucets in their new buildings as a result.

Missy Walton, Medical Technologist and Phlebotomist at Wol+Med Back & Neck Pain Center in Denton Texas says that in her instruction for obtaining certification for the medical procedures and services she now performs, she learned that rubbing your hands together vigorously for at least 20 seconds (as shown in the above video), is more effective in killing germs than the temperature of the water. Water will help wash the germs off, but rarely kills the germs. It is the vigorous rubbing of the hands and the soap that kill more germs than anything else in the hand washing process.

Examples Of Bad Hand Washing Habits I Have Personally Observed

Having seen and heard what I think were some incredible things over the years regarding hand washing, I hope this hub will encourage everyone to do the one simple thing that can protect their own, and their family’s health and that can stop illness and disease before it has a chance to even get started.

A few years ago I was in a well-known discount store with my daughter who was then eleven years old. Halfway through our shopping she needed to use the restroom. I went with her and stood near the entrance door to the restroom while I waited for her.

While I was waiting, perhaps 10 minutes total, I watched the other women who came in to see what they would do on their way back out the door. A total of 23 women of all ages entered and left the restroom while I was there. Of those 23 women, only 3 made any attempt to wash their hands before leaving the restroom.

One of the young women who appeared to be late teens early 20s, left without so much as a glance towards the sinks where you might expect her to wash her hands before returning to work, was wearing the uniform of a fast-food restaurant within the discount store. She was in a hurry. Too much of a hurry to be bothered to think about washing her hands let alone do it.

Of the 3 women who did make an effort to wash their hands, only one did so correctly. One of the women ran her hands under the water from the faucet for a couple of seconds and then grabbed a paper towel to dry them and was back out the door.

Another of the 3 women who bothered to make an attempt to wash her hands also ran her fingers quickly under some running water and then wiped/dried her hands on her own clothes.

A third woman wet her hands, soaped them up well and rubbed them together vigorously for a few seconds, rinsed them, and then turned and used her elbow to push the lever on the paper towel holder to get a clean paper towel to dry her hands. She was wearing long sleeves so her elbow never actually touched the lever on the paper towel holder. She let the water run while she did this. When she had finished drying her hands, she pushed the lever again, this time with her hand holding the used paper towel.

With the new clean paper towel she shut off the faucets and then used the same paper towel again to protect her hand from germs as she opened the restroom door to leave. She stopped for just a moment and held the door open with her back against it while disposing of the paper towel in a trash can near the restroom door as she was leaving. Not perfect, but a pretty good job, and the best hand washer of the 23 women.

At two different work places for two different employers, female coworkers have told me they never wash their hands in a public restroom. They stated that they believed when they washed their hands in a public restroom that their hands were dirtier after washing than they had been before washing, even though they had used the toilet.

More recently, I was in a restaurant working as a supervisor for a special needs young woman who was learning how to do her job. I made a trip to the restroom to wash my hands. Upon entering the women’s restroom, I practically collided with one of the regular female workers who had just shot out of one of the toilet stalls and was hurriedly heading back out to resume her food server activities! Without washing her hands!! She never went near the sink.

Why Do So Many People Hate Washing Their Hands?

Hand washing would seem to not only be a mystery to many people – in other words they do not know how to do it correctly – but it would seem that it is also a popular aversion, meaning no one likes to do it and most people avoid it.

I rather think it is not obesity that is running the healthcare costs in our society up, but more probably the fact that 90% of people DO NOT WASH THEIR HANDS.

News21: “Salmonella, E. coli, campylobacter and listeria monocytogenes live in the intestines and feces of animals and humans without harming them. But when very tiny amounts of feces touch food, microscopic pathogens are passed along.”

Also from News21: “People also can spread pathogens to food with dirty hands contaminated with tiny amounts of fecal matter when they used the restroom, changed diapers, or handle animals.”

Symptoms of Food Poisoning Caused By Feces In Food

eMedicineHealth states: “Symptoms of food poisoning depend on the type of contaminant and the amount eaten. The symptoms can develop rapidly, within 30 minutes, or slowly, worsening over days to weeks. Most of the common contaminants cause:

Nausea

Vomiting

Diarrhea

Abdominal cramping and fever

If you notice any of these symptoms soon after eating, whether you ate at home or in a restaurant, you may suspect you are a victim of food poisoning. Food poisoning may occur either because the food was not handled properly -- keeping it at the right temperature, covered, or free of bacteria/viruses through handlers making sure their hands were clean.

When To Wash Your Hands

The first step in preparing any recipe or food dish should always be WASHING YOUR HANDS.

Always wash your hands before preparing food, eating food, emptying clean dishes from the dishwasher.

Always wash your hands before dispensing medicines to a family member or anyone.

Make sure your hands are clean before you handle your baby. Always wash your hands after changing diapers.

Always wash your hands after handling or petting an animal, or handling pet food, pet treats, or pet toys.

Always wash your hands after cleaning up a dirty floor or other area, after handling garbage, dirty laundry, and after gardening.

Always wash your hands after touching a sick person or their belongings or after tending to a cut or a wound whether it’s your own or someone else’s.

Always wash your hands after returning from a public place – stores, libraries, doctor’s offices or hospitals, night clubs, restaurants, or ANY public place.

Always wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing or after using the restroom.

Why You Should Wash Your Hands

The CDC (Center For Disease Control and Prevention) states: “Keeping hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. If clean, running water is not accessible, as is common in many parts of the world, use soap and available water.

If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean hands.”

Keeping your hands clean can be a matter of sickness or health, life or death, not only for you, but also for your family. Take a minute to protect yours and your family’s health through the simple and inexpensive act of washing your hands.

© 2012 C E Clark

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Comments 54 comments

Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

SageCanton, thank you for stopping by. So few people seem to realize the importance of washing their hands and how to do it correctly.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

2besure, thank you for stopping and commenting. Bad as it was 'back then' when a lot of people didn't know any better, there are still a lot of people, including people working in medical services who do not wash their hands as often as they should. Such a simple thing to protect their own health and that of others, yet they cannot be bothered . . .


SageCanton 2 years ago

Very thorough, informative hub. Thanks for writing about such a basic yet important topic :)


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

Peggy W, thank you for tweeting and Google+ing this article. I agree that many unpleasant situations (illnesses) could be avoided if people would just wash their hands. How simple can it get?

I have had women tell me that they believe their hands are dirtier AFTER they wash them than they were before because they think the bathroom is so dirty that one couldn't possibly get cleaner by using water from one of its faucets.

Clearly they don't know how to wash their hands correctly, and from my experience, they do not want to know. They are convinced their dirty hands are cleaner before soap and water is added and no one is going to change their minds.


2besure profile image

2besure 2 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

OMG! My sister and I was just talking about how 100 years ago, a doctor would perform surgery one one patient and go on to the next patient and never washed his hands. It is so simple and so basic, I don't know why some people don't understand how important this is. Good Article.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 2 years ago from Houston, Texas

Correct hand washing is such an important topic. With super bugs emerging I would think that this most basic precaution should be stressed more than ever! Doing my part by tweeting, G+ and once again sharing. People really need to pay attention to this!


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas Author

PegCole17, thank you for reading, and for sharing your thoughts on this important issue. Just a few years ago I did turn a restaurant employee in for not washing her hands after finishing in the bathroom and she was given a brief reminder that she needs to wash her hands. Very few people seem to take it seriously.

Do you really wonder if employees coming back from a smoke break wash their hands at all much less correctly? Of course you know the answer to that. :)


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

This is such an important topic, Au fait. It is frightening to think about all the food service places where employees do not follow the basic rules of sanitation. I remember seeing this in office environments as well. I made a practice of noticing this, in particular, when we were having some sort of buffet meal.

There is a complete section on this topic in the Cosmetology training classes needed for license renewal. Sanitation and sterilization techniques are essential for good health. I can tell you that if I saw that fast food person returning to work without a thorough hand washing, I would be tempted to report that to management. Instead, I just try to avoid these places.

One other occasion that requires hand washing would be after smoking cigarettes. Often, I see a restaurant crew at the back door of a restaurant returning to their posts after a smoke break. I wonder if they practice proper hand washing techniques.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you Deborah-Diane, for sharing this important article. Flu season is well underway where I work at our local school district. People could save themselves a lot of grief and misery if they would just adopt the habit of washing their hands correctly and often.


Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah-Diane 3 years ago from Orange County, California

Now that flu season is here, I am sharing this with my followers. I have noticed that a lot of people do not like to get flu shots ... so they need to be extra vigilant with precautions like washing their hands.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you rajan jolly for stopping back and sharing this article on Google+!


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Glad to revisit and sharing it again on G+1.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

moonlake, thank you so much for pinning this hub!


moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

Pinning to my health board. Good information.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Cantuhearmescream . . . That is true, Cat, when people care about anything at all, and that is sometimes questionable it seems to me.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you for commenting Peachpurple. It's a good idea to teach children starting at a very early age that keeping their hands clean is a great way to stay healthy.


Cantuhearmescream profile image

Cantuhearmescream 3 years ago from New York

Au fait,

Yet we seem to live in a place and time that strives for quantity rather than quality, with just about everything! :-(


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Cantuhearmescream, you are so right! That's true of so many things . . .


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you Peggy W, for pinning and tweeting this hub. People really don't give hand washing the attention it should have -- and many of those people work in restaurants and medical offices.


peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

in malaysia, posters of washing hands the right way are pasted in public areas to create the awareness of the H1N1 virus. Hence, it is indeed a good practice to start at home especially children who are vulnerable to virus. Thanks for the useful hub


Cantuhearmescream profile image

Cantuhearmescream 3 years ago from New York

Ha ha! Hey, I'm leaving myself 2 hours of sleep before I have to get a kid up for school, but you've got me in stitches! Thanks for the laughs!!! ... and for the record... it'sn not just frequency... it quality :D


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

I'm so glad if I inspired you to wash your hands frequently, Cat. Next is more home cooking so you'll know there aren't any extra tidbits included in the soup . . . ;)


Cantuhearmescream profile image

Cantuhearmescream 3 years ago from New York

Au fait,

I can't use a public restroom without thinking of you now :D Actually, as a matter of fact, I cleaned my garage a couple days ago... and spent another day in the garden. Both days, I came in with filthy hands and as I scrubbed away, I giggled and thought "Au fait would be proud if she could see me now" :D

... I couldn't agree with you more!


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Cantuhearmescream, Cat, thank you for reading, voting on, and sharing this article, and especially for sharing your thoughts. Since writing this article I have witnessed even worse things that people who work in restaurants do. Home cooking looks better and better for so many reasons!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

This hub needs to be shared some more. Pinning it to my Health related subjects board on Pinterest and tweeting. People need to know the true importance of the value of effective and frequent hand washing.


Cantuhearmescream profile image

Cantuhearmescream 3 years ago from New York

Au fait,

This is an excellent article! It should be plastered everywhere and I'm certainly sharing it... I might even have to print it out :-)

Honestly, I try to be very conscious of my hand washing and in the winter months, I go through as much lotion as I do soap :-) But there probably are times that I skimp a little... I'll be making sure to fix that now.

Your story was terrifying, how disgusting! I know, I've heard women joke about how they "actually had to wash their hands because there were other women in the restroom"... oh my goodness, how that must've ruined their day. Funny, I've noticed how many girls will stop by the sink to use the mirror to check their hair or make-up or butt, yet refuse to turn on the water! Dealing with food; not washing hands should be automatic grounds for termination... maybe their ought to be cameras over the sinks of restrooms... I'd deal with my "hand washing privacy" invaded if it meant the people dealing with my food had clean hands. Excellent hub!

Up, useful, awesome, interesting and sharing!

Cat


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Thanks again JayeWisdom, for the link, and for stopping by. You're right about making your schedule. I've found that there's more than enough to do and I hardly have time to work out! But I need the money because the other stuff, though important and necessary, doesn't pay. :(


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

Thanks so much, Au fait. I understand the demands of a paying job, as I worked away from home for three decades before retirement. (I'm managing to stay pretty busy even now, but the best thing about working from home is setting one's own schedule.)

Thanks for reading my hub about the norovirus, and I'll be honored to link your hub to mine.

Jaye


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you JayeWisdom for reading and commenting on this hub, and for voting it up, etc. So sorry it takes me so long to get back to people on comments, but during the week my time is pretty much taken up with my paying job. :)

I've read your hub on the norovirus and it's excellent and I hope everyone will read it and do their best to protect themselves and their families. This hub on hand washing would be beneficial too, since so many people seem to skip this step that can do so much to prevent illness. I will be honored to have you link this hub to yours. Thank you.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you Sonya-Artis for reading, commenting, and voting on this hub! I don't think you are taking things to far if all you're doing is avoiding touching things in public that hundreds and possibly thousands of people have touched and it hasn't been disinfected. I think you might catch something more readily and possibly more lethal from touching an elevator button than from kissing your husband when he has a bad cold! (Or a friend, etc.) ;)


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Sorry I've taken so long to get back. Of course you can link to this hub or any of my hubs and I will be honored. Thank you JayeWisdom.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

Au fait....Per my request three days ago, may I have your permission to link this hub to my hub about avoiding the spread of norovirus? Your detail about hand-washing is valuable. Thanks.

Jaye


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

mperrottet, thank you for reading, commenting, voting on, and especially for sharing this hub! I was pretty surprised myself to see so many people walk right past the sinks and not even so much as look at them. I have since that day seen other fast food workers fly from other bathroom stalls back to work without washing their hands. People seem to be getting more and more irresponsible and ill informed about lots of things.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you rajan jolly for reading, commenting, voting on, and sharing this hub! Hand washing is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to protect your health and the health of your family. Most germs are picked up off surfaces and things we touch. Some are airborn, but more are gotten from touching things that are infected. Hand washing accomplishes more than anything else in ridding ourselves of these germs before they can infect us and then it's much harder to get rid of them, not to mention unpleasant.


JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

Great hub! Voted Up++

May I have your permission to put a link to this hub at the end of my hub about preventing norovirus? Although I explain in my hub the importance of hand-washing to prevent spreading the virus, your focus on how to wash hands exceeds my description. Thanks for this information. Jaye


Sonya-Artis profile image

Sonya-Artis 3 years ago from Kansas City, MO/Ft. Lauderdale, FL

I have a phobia about touching things. I don't open doors with my bare hand, I either use my foot or pull my shirt over my hand. I also don't touch stair rails, or any other rails. I even try not to push buttons on elevators with my bare finger! I know...I may carry it too far, but I've seen too many unclean things happen....great hub. Voted up.


mperrottet profile image

mperrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

This is such an important issue with bacterial infections such as MRSA being so prevalent. I can't believe that so many people that you were watching didn't bother to wash, and it's especially disconcerting that some were food handlers. Really good hub - voted up, useful and interesting, and sharing.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Thanks for underlining the importance of washing hands well. It's true not many people are aware of the need to wash hands well.

Very impressive and useful hub.

Voted up, useful and shared.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you Janhorner for taking the time to comment on this hub! I do know how many people touch public door handles. Thankfully many businesses now have electric doors that do not require touching. Also, many public bathrooms have no doors.

Even merchandise is handled by many customers and should not be touched if not necessary.

I always used 70% rubbing alcohol to clean the mouse and keys on the keyboards I used at work. Accomplishes the same thing as detol wipes and costs much less.

Thank you again for sharing your wise insights!


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

Peggy W, thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing this hub, and for your wise professional advice. So many unpleasantries could be avoided by simply washing one's hands. Yes, if people could see their hands under a microscope they would probably wash them 'til they bleed, and for sure they would never again allow their children to pick anything off the filthy parking lot or sidewalk much less put it in their mouths!


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

ryokowaren, thank you for stopping by and emphasizing the importance of washing our hands and that goes 100 more times during flu season!


Au fait profile image

Au fait 3 years ago from North Texas Author

moonlake, thank you for reading and commenting on my hub! So sorry to hear you became ill in spite of all your efforts to avoid it. I, too, have trouble avoiding colds because I'm out with the public and working with children most days. I even carry a bottle of heavy duty hand sanitizer with me, but some illnesses are air borne and you know how your nose will start to itch just when it's difficult to scratch it. I think sometimes we forget and automatically scratch our nose or do something that allows germs to get to us despite our best intentions, and may not even realize what we did!

Where I work we seem to have started the 2nd round of colds/flu. Most of us are super careful about washing our hands often and cleaning the equipment we must use, but even then germs find their way through . . . imagine if we didn't make all those efforts! Thanks again moonlake.


Janhorner 4 years ago

Hi, this is a very important and informative hub. It's all to do with hands! I take out some alcohol gel when shopping so I can keep my hands germ free. The minute I get home I wash my hands before putting anything away. Money, computer mouse (especially if shared at work) are a breeding ground for germs! I clean my keys boards, laptops and mouse once a week at home with detol wipes. Can you imagine how many people open and close a shop door! There are unhygienic people who don't even think about germs!

It is not enough to just gel your hands if there is C-diff about, you need to wash them as per this hub's advice to get rid of the germs.

Voted up, very helpful.

Jan


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

Having been an OR nurse many years ago, it is ingrained into my consciousness the benefits of washing hands. Too bad everyone cannot take a course in microbiology. They would be AMAZED at just how fast bacteria can grow. Simple but thorough hand washing techniques could cut back on so many illnesses. Great hub! Up, useful and sharing!


ryokowaren profile image

ryokowaren 4 years ago from USA

I wash my hands SO much that it's crazy and hardly ever get sick.

People, please wash your hands. We don't want to get sick with hepatitis or the flu from poor hygiene.


moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

I wash my hands all the time but it must have not been enough a few weeks ago. We got so sick with the flu. I even wipe the handles on carts in the stores before I use them. Lots of good information voted up.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

There are some very nasty restrooms out there. I've been in some where I felt like I needed hip boots and a Hazmat suit!

That was one of the reasons some women I have talked to gave for not washing their hands. They said they thought their hands were dirtier after washing them -- which is of course because they didn't know how to wash their hands correctly.

That is why I provided the video showing the correct way to wash one's hands. By washing hands as instructed, one can get their hands clean no matte how filthy the restroom.

Thank you Shyron, for reading and commenting!


Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

MMPI? Are you talking about the personality test? Have never taken one of those. PSYC of personality seems idiotic to me. Have no idea how all the billions of personalities in this world can be brought down to 5 or so different types. Washing one's hands regularly and properly will benefit a person so much more than a personality test!

Thanks again for for checking this out Bobby, and maybe a review wouldn't hurt in case you missed something important the first time. xx


Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

jpcmc: It's strange how some people (more than you think) just do not want to take the time to do the simplest thing to protect their own health and the health of their families and the people around them.

Thank you for reading and commenting!


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 4 years ago

Very informative, well written, and all around necessity for health promoting.

We need a follow-up about nasty restrooms.

I love this also, because if these women do not wash their hands, it would be safe to say they probably bring up their children that they do not have to wash their hands either and, probably the mothers of these women taught them that they did not need to wash their hands, and it brings into question about bathing the whole body.


jpcmc profile image

jpcmc 4 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

Washing hands can proptect us against many diseases. But like you've pointed out, many just don't take the tiem to do this.

I'm a hand wash freak. Plus I bring hand sanitizers or alcohol always just to be sure. My wife brings commercially available wet tissue in case there is not washroom available.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 4 years ago from North Texas Author

Thank you for taking time to check out my hub, I very much appreciate it. Yes, cold water works just as well for washing hands unless one needs to remove dirt or grease, etc. What surprised me was that rubbing ones hands vigorously in the process for 20 seconds or more actually killed germs.


diogenes 4 years ago

Have you taken the MMPI lately?

Bob


Philanthropy2012 profile image

Philanthropy2012 4 years ago from London

I personally really like these simple, to-the-point health hubs that promote well-being without cramming products down your throat - well done :)

Also, I always considered warm water to be the most effective way of washing your hands which is really shameful because of course no pathogen would denature from tepid water! Now I feel ridiculous haha! Thanks anyway! Great hub, up and interesting (:

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    Au fait profile image

    C E Clark (Au fait)593 Followers
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    C. E. Clark believes it is her duty and responsibility as a researcher and writer to bring important information to her readers .



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