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Hygiene and infection control preparedness in disasters

Updated on August 30, 2017

Hygiene and Hand Washing NEEDS to be Observed After a Disaster or an Emergency

The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) is a great resource for hygiene and infection control information. OUTFOX likes to support and add upon any information given by the CDC to help our clients and future clients know more. By know more, you can OUTFOX illness and disease. On the disaster topic, the CDC has released the following information:

CDC: Personal Hygiene and Handwashing After a Disaster or Emergency

Good basic personal hygiene and handwashing are critical to help prevent the spread of illness and disease. Clean, safe running water is essential for proper hygiene and handwashing.

Hygiene is especially important in an emergency such as a flood, hurricane, or earthquake, but finding clean, safe running water can sometimes be difficult. The following information will help to ensure good hygiene and handwashing in the event of an emergency.

Hand Washing is important
Hand Washing is important

Handwashing Specifics from the CDC

Hand Washing is the Single Best Thing You Can Do For Better Health


Keeping hands clean during an emergency helps prevent the spread of germs. If your tap water is not safe to use, wash your hands with soap and water that has been boiled or disinfected . Follow these steps to make sure you wash your hands properly:

-Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.

-Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

-Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.

-Rinse your hands well under running water.

-Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

A temporary hand washing station can be created by using a large water jug that contains clean water (for example, boiled or disinfected).

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.

Hand sanitizers are not effective when hands are visibly dirty.

Disaster Kits on Amazon

Disaster Kits can mean all the difference during a disaster or an emergency situation. Much of the suffering and damage comes after the disaster when individuals do not take care of their basic hygiene needs. Infection control is so important!

Hand washing in an emergency
Hand washing in an emergency

When to Wash Your Hands

From the CDC

The answer is always, but here are some guidelines to remind you of when germs are their strongest!

Wash hands with soap and clean, running water (if available):

-Before, during, and after preparing food

-Before eating food

-After using the toilet

-After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet

-Before and after caring for someone who is sick

-After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

-After touching an animal or animal waste

-After touching garbage

-Before and after treating a cut or wound

Disaster hygiene for better infection control
Disaster hygiene for better infection control

Other Hygiene Considerations

From the CDC


Bathing after a water-related emergency should only be done with clean, safe water. Listen to local authorities for further instructions. Sometimes water that is not safe to drink can be used for bathing.

Dental Hygiene

-Brushing your teeth after a water-related emergency should only be done with clean, safe water. Listen to local authorities to find out if tap water is safe to use.

-Visit the Safe Drinking Water for Personal Use page for more information about making your water safe for brushing your teeth.

-You may visit CDC's Oral Health Web site for complete dental hygiene information.

Wound Care

Keeping wounds clean and covered is crucial during an emergency. If you have open cuts or sores, keep them as clean as possible by washing well with soap and clean, safe water to control infection. If a wound develops redness, swelling, or drainage, seek immediate medical attention.

When providing first aid for a wound, clean hands can help prevent infection (see Handwashing on this page). Visit Emergency Wound Care After a Natural Disaster to find complete information on caring for wounds.

Healthcare professionals should visit Emergency Wound Management for Healthcare Professionals and Management of Vibrio vulnificus Wound Infections After a Disaster.

Hand Washing and Hygiene During Disaster Emergency
Hand Washing and Hygiene During Disaster Emergency

Disease and Illness thrive during disasters

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Emergencies

Diarrhoeal diseases, acute respiratory infection, measles, malaria and malnutrition are the most common causes of death in emergencies. All these causes of death are preventable.

The majority of these preventive measures are related to environmental conditions: appropriate shelter and site planning, clean water, good sanitation, vector control, personal protection such as (insecticide-treated nets, personal hygiene and health promotion.

These measures address conditions in the environment, known as ‘risk factors’ because they can cause disease. It is important to understand the relationship between disease and environmental risk factors because interventions must target risk factors properly.

It is worth noting that although malnutrition is not an environment-related disease, it is linked to diarrhoea because malnutrition increases the severity of diarrhoea while diarrhoea can cause malnutrition.

The Johns Hopkins and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Duel Debate Module

Is using hand sanitizer enough for you to feel clean from germs?

Take a moment and comment on disaster hygiene! Also, run and check your disaster kits to make sure that you are storing enough hygiene items. Don't just think of food and water. Think of all living supplies we use today and how bad it would be to not have basic hygiene items.

Hygiene poll

Do you have hygiene items packed in your disaster kits?

See results

Disaster poll #2

Do you have a 72 hour kit for each member of your family or team?

See results

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