Feces (poop) from people or animals is a source of germs like Salmonella, E. coli O157, and norovirus that cause diarrhea, and it can spread some respiratory infections like adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease.
These kinds of germs can get onto hands after people use the toilet or change a diaper, but also after handling raw meats that have invisible amounts of animal poop on them.
One gram of human feces (~ the weight of a paper clip) can contain one trillion germs (1,000,000,000,000). Germs can also get onto hands if people touch any object that has germs on it because someone coughed or sneezed on it or was touched by some other contaminated object. When these germs get onto hands and are not washed off, they can be passed from person to person and make people sick.
Handwashing with soap removes germs from hands and thus helps prevent infections because:
- People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without realizing it - germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth.
- Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them - germs can multiply in some types of foods or drinks under certain conditions.
- Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred t objects like table tops or toys - and from there to other people.
Removing germs through handwashing therefore helps prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections and may even help prevent skin and eye infections.
Teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy:
- Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31%,
- Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%,
- Reduces colds in the general population by 16-21%.