Most people are aware that poor hygiene and cleaning habits can lead to infections and illness, but how does this impact upon the country as a whole?
A recent study revealed the extent to which stomach upsets affect the UK, including productivity.
Research published by the Food Standards Agency showed that 17 million people suffer from stomach upsets or Infectious Intestinal Disease (IID) including diarrhea and vomiting. This amounted to 11 million working days off sick annually.
The study’s key findings were that viruses, particularly norovirus, and the bacteria campylobacter are the most common causes of IID. The norovirus is the biggest cause of IID in the UK, primarily spread by person-to-person.
High contact areas such as the workplace and schools are renowned for these infections, proving that keeping areas hygienic with antibacterial soap in soap dispensers, steam cleaning and keeping surfaces sterile are essential.
Teaching proper washroom habits such as effective hand drying with automatic hand dryers also helps fight infections such as the norovirus.
Campylobacter, a main cause of IID, is estimated to cause about 500,000 cases of illness in the UK every year and is primarily found on raw poultry.
“This new study is very important as it gives us a more accurate picture of the impact of IID on the UK population,” said Andrew Wadge, Chief Scientist at the FSA.
“This study has confirmed that the burden of IID is substantial in the UK. However, a large proportion of the illnesses reported can be prevented by adopting good basic hygiene. The FSA’s advice on preparation and handling of food will help to minimise the risk from bacteria and viruses linked to food.”
The study was conducted by a group of organisations led by the University of Manchester.
Professor Sarah O’Brien, the study’s lead researcher from the University of Manchester, said: â€œItâ€™s easy to dismiss diarrhea and vomiting as a trivial illness, but this study reinforces just how many people’s lives are affected, and shows the impact it can have on health services and the wider economy.
“Our research confirms that public health policy should continue to be directed at preventing diarrhea and vomiting by promoting good personal and food hygiene.”