Research Proves Hand Washing, Prevention More Effective Than Vaccination
February 2, 2012 by Sam Rolley
If a flu pandemic were to spread throughout the United States, researchers at the University of Michigan say that masks and hand hygiene — not vaccines — could cut the spread of the illness by up to 75 percent.
The study’s researchers directed students at the University of Michigan to wear surgical masks and practice good hand hygiene in residence halls for flu prevention, said Allison Aiello, associate professor of epidemiology in the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
The study took place during flu seasons from 2006 to 2007 and 2008 to 2009. During the two flu seasons, the researchers recruited more than 1,000 students in residence halls. The students were assigned to groups who wore masks, wore masks and practiced hand hygiene, or did neither. They were monitored for the presence of flu symptoms or the flu. The group that did both reported far fewer flu-like illnesses than the other two groups.
“This means masks and hand hygiene may be a good measure for preventing transmissions in crowded living quarters,” said Aiello. “In a pandemic situation where compliance may be significantly higher than in controlled studies, masks and hand hygiene together may have even higher preventative implications?”
The study’s researchers said that vaccines would likely be unavailable in a pandemic situation, and personal hygiene and prevention would likely be the first line of defense. However, research published in The Lancet last year provides statistics that may actually reaffirm the importance of the University of Michigan study. The article says that the trivalent inactivated vaccine (TIV) — which accounts for about 90 percent of flu vaccines given in the United States — had only 59 percent effectiveness in healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 65 when there is not a pandemic.
During a pandemic, vaccines may actually contribute to the spread of illness, according to Dr. Eleanora I. McBean’s 1977 book Swine Flu Expose in which she writes of the influenza pandemic of 1918: “The flu of 1918 was caused by the conglomeration of diseases which the sinister variety of vaccines brought on. Practically everyone in the world had been propagandized into submitting to all the vaccine that were invented –the surplus stock left over from World War I which was the first war in which all the vaccines were used. The vaccinated got the flu and the unvaccinated didn’t. I was one of the unvaccinated and I didn’t get the flu. I didn’t see an unvaccinated person who got the flu.”