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Study Finds Handwashing Disparities
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Sep 16, 11:00 am ET

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Rack one up for Canada: A survey of travelers at North American airports released on Monday found that nearly everyone washed their hands at the Toronto airport after using the restroom, in contrast to habits at some U.S. airports.

Those who conducted the study said Toronto's high marks may reflect increased sensitivity there due to last year's SARS epidemic, which hit the city particularly hard.

The survey, sponsored by the American Society of Microbiology and released at the group's meeting in Chicago, looked at 6,541 people using washrooms at six airports in August 2003.

At Toronto International Airport 96 percent washed their hands, according to observers who watched selected restrooms for a period of time.

The best U.S. airport was Dallas-Fort Worth where 81 percent washed, followed by 74 percent at Chicago's O'Hare, San Francisco International and Miami Dade County International. New York's John F. Kennedy came in last at 71 percent.

The microbiology group said failure to maintain good hand hygiene is a major cause of the transmission of both routine and serious diseases.


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