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Hand Sanitizer and Rates of Acute Illness in Military Aviation Personnel

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Van Camp RO, Ortega Jr HJ. Hand sanitizer and rates of acute illness in military aviation personnel. Aviat Space Environ Med 2007; 78:140–142.

Introduction: Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (HS) kills most organisms that cause acute illness, an important cause of lost duty time among aviation personnel. This preliminary study observed the impact on the acute illness rate when HS was made readily accessible to pilots. Methods: Wall-mounted HS dispensers were placed in two fighter squadron operations buildings during November 2005 and various media were used to alert all base personnel to the importance of hand hygiene and cough hygiene. Data were obtained for two groups of personnel on the same base: 1) pilots who worked in the two HS-equipped buildings (Squadron) (n = 56); and 2) pilots and air traffic controllers who worked at other locations (Non-Squadron) (n = 61). The incidence of acute illness and the cumulative number of duty days lost was determined in each group for the winters of 2004–05 (no HS) and 2005–06 (HS available). Results: For the Squadron group, the acute illness rates were 2.4% in 2004–5 (210 duty days lost) (no HS) compared with 0.9% in 2005–6 (78 duty days lost) when HS was provided. No year-to-year difference was apparent for the Non-Squadron group, where the illness rates were 2.4% in 2004–5 (229 duty days lost) and 2.3% in 2005–6 (221 duty days lost). Discussion: Making HS readily available at locations frequented by pilots together with educating them regarding hand hygiene may reduce the occurrence of acute illness and number of duty days lost.
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Keywords: disinfection; epidemiology; handwashing; hygiene; infection; prevention

Document Type: Short Communication

Publication date: February 1, 2007

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