Diarrhea has been a nasty infection for many thousands of people this year - and yet around a third of cases could have been avoided if every family member had washed their hands.
This simple measure is one of the most effective ways of combating diarrhea, a new study has discovered. It works equally as well in the West and in developing countries, where the disease can be a killer.
Researchers from the Cochrane Collaboration made the discovery when they analysed 14 studies, some in institutions such as day-care centres, as well as in residential homes, and compared the difference in rates between those that insisted on hand washing and those that didn't.
The researchers found that rates could fall by 29 per cent in developed countries, and by 31 per cent in developing countries, if everyone started washing their hands regularly.
If they did, they would be eliminating one of the primary causes of diarrheal infection. The other causes are from eating contaminated foods or by direct contact with a sufferer.
(Source: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2008; 1: No. CD004265, doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004265.pub2).