Are East Texans correctly washing their hands during cold and flu season?

KLTV teams up with NET Health to conduct a study in some of Tyler’s busiest public restrooms

Hand washing survey

TYLER, TEXAS (KLTV) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Texas as one of 16 states already experiencing widespread flu activity this season.

According to information from the Northeast Texas Public Health District in Tyler, the highest rate of confirmed cases can be found in Smith, Wood, and Camp counties. A majority of the cases in Texas are Flu Type B and more people are already being treated for the virus than this time last year, according to public health data.

So what’s the best thing you can do to prevent the spread of the flu?

“Wash your hands,” said Terrence Ates, Director of Community Outreach for NET Health.

But both Ates and the CDC say the key is washing them correctly.

“You should actually wet your hands first, then you lather them with soap," Ates said. "You want to allow the soap to do its magic to lift the dirt and then the germs off the surface of your skin. So then when you do rub your hands and wash them underwater, you’re actually cleaning them of all the bacteria that’s on them.”

According to the CDC, the best practice is to rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds and then rinse them with warm water.

A recent CDC study showed that only 31% of men and 65% of women wash their hands after using the restroom.

In an effort to find out how East Texans are doing when it comes to hand-washing, we sent Ates and one of our newest team members, Erin Wides, into some of Tyler’s most frequently used public restrooms. Our researchers sat inside restrooms stalls and kept count of the number of people entering and if they decided to wash or not wash their hands.

“She looked at herself in the mirror and then left without washing her hands,” said Wides after conducting her first survey. By the end of the day, we had visited five public restrooms in different parts of Tyler.

Our final results showed that 82% of women washed their hands and 50% of men washed theirs after using public restrooms in Tyler businesses.

These results are in no way “officially scientific," but Ates said it is a good reminder that we can all do a better job of protecting ourselves and others from the flu.

“You shouldn’t do it as quick as possible just to get out of the bathroom,” Ates said.

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