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Last Updated: Monday, 14 May 2007, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Many 'ignore basic home hygiene'
Handwashing
Many people do not wash their hands
More two thirds of people do not comply with basic hygiene principles - and men are the worst culprits, research shows.

The Hygiene Council found many people fail to wash their hands after using the toilet, before preparing food or after coughing and sneezing.

As a result people are more likely to encounter germs in their homes than in public places.

Public toilets are often cleaner than home kitchen surfaces, according to the report.

LACK OF HYGIENE
53% don't wash their hands properly after sneezing or coughing
22% don't wash their hand properly after handling animals or pets

Good hygiene is directly linked to a reduction in rates of illness and infection.

The research found one in in 10 people do not wash their hands after going to the toilet.

Nearly a quarter of the population will handle food after stroking their pets without using any disinfectant first.

In the home the toilet is not the principal location of bacteria: there were more harmful germs on light switches, door handles and the kitchen chopping board.

However, the research found that only 3% of people believe their homes are infectious and only one in three make sure their kitchen surfaces are clean.

Cleaner past

Professor John Oxford, a virologist at Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry in London and chairman of the Hygiene Council, said despite medical and scientific advances, homes were more germ-ridden today than they were before antibiotics entered widespread use in the 1940s.

He said: "People born before the antibiotic era had not relaxed their guard.

"I think we have relaxed our guard today, because whatever infection we have we think we can just pull something off the shelf and deal with it. That's a serious mistake.

"Scientific evidence shows that simple and good hygiene practices can reduce the risk of illness and infection at home and in the community, so we must protect ourselves by putting these measures into practice."

He added: "Hands are absolutely vital. I would suggest myself that we should be washing our hands six or seven times a day."

Each year there are more than 70,000 known cases of food poisoning in the UK.

But experts believe the true figures probably run into millions, because so many cases go unreported.


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