Global Handwashing Day - a recipe for health

14 Oct 2018
vet voice - washing hands

Each year Global Handwashing Day has a theme and this year it is a ‘clean hands – a recipe for health’. This is an opportune time for us to remember that many diseases can pass from animals to humans and threaten public health, such as Q fever, Hendra virus and avian influenza are just a few.

On this Global Handwashing Day (15 October), the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is urging animal owners and handlers to ensure they maintain good disease prevention and infection control, which starts with the simple act of handwashing.   

AVA President Dr Paula Parker says that handwashing before and after handling an animal is essential in preventing the spread of infection and disease between animals and humans.

“Zoonotic diseases are diseases that pass from animals to humans and vice versa and they pose serious threats to public health and safety. In the case of Hendra virus, which can pass from horses to humans, it can be fatal and has been linked to deaths of four people.

“In recognition of clean hands being a recipe for health, it’s vital that pet owners, farmers, producers and anyone who handles animals practises good personal biosecurity, washing their hands before and after handling an animal,” Dr Parker said.

Today relationships between owners and their pets is becoming more personal, with more dogs and cats viewed as part of the family and spending more time inside with their owners.

“While this is certainly a positive trend in pet ownership, sharing an environment means that bacteria are transferring freely between pets and owners, which increases the risk of the spread of infection and zoonotic diseases.

“Handwashing before and after handling a pet is a quick action that pet owners can do to reduce the risk of infection and disease from spreading,” Dr Parker said.

Dr Parker says that hand hygiene is important in any situation where people might have contact with an animal.

“Wherever animals are present, such as petting zoos, aged care facilities and hospitals with visiting dogs, and any other environments that allow close contact with animals, we should encourage good hand hygiene and have appropriate handwashing facilities available.

“Handwashing can’t be underestimated in the role it plays in protecting public health,” she said.

For further information and requests for interviews contact the AVA media office on 0439 628 898 or

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is the only national association representing veterinarians in Australia. Founded in 1921, the AVA today represents 9000 members working in all areas of animal science, health, and welfare.