Knitters needed to help Scots pupils smash hand hygiene world record

06 February 2014

The knitted version of the common cold

The knitted version of the common cold

Scottish primary school pupils are enlisting the help of knitting and crocheting enthusiasts for a unique attempt to break the world record for the biggest hand hygiene lesson ever held.

Glasgow pupils will attend a class on Wednesday, March 19 where specially knitted versions of bugs, or microbes, such as the common cold, salmonella, and TB will be used to bring the importance of hand washing to life.

Student nurses from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) will deliver the simultaneous sessions at 1.30pm in schools across the city, hoping to the smash the existing world record set in 2012 by the Health Protection Agency (England) when 2147 pupils from 21 schools took part in a hand hygiene class.

The event’s organisers – a partnership including science awareness campaign Glasgow City of Science, GCU, NHS Scotland including Health Protection Scotland and Glasgow Science Centre – hope that as many as possible of the 36,000 pupils from across the city will be involved in the world record attempt.

Children will be introduced to the bugs, or microbes, using the larger-than-life versions knitted in wool by volunteers. The projects organisers hope to have 980 bugs to complete the kits and are still looking for volunteers to knit 600 further bugs. The free patterns can be found www.glasgowcityofscience.com.

The 40-minute schools session will also explore how bugs and germs spread illness among groups of people and how simple steps, such as hand washing or covering one’s nose during a sneeze, can make the spread of infection much less likely.

Professor Tracey Howe, deputy chairman Glasgow City of Science and GCU researcher, said: “We are trying to raise the profile of hand hygiene, and importantly the science behind it, right across the city. Hand hygiene and infection control is an important topic, on the agenda for many organisations, so that’s one of the reasons why Glasgow City of Science brought these organisations together on this project to add greater value.

“This includes the Scottish Government, Health Protection Scotland, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, the university the schools and, of course, our great members of the public who are also learning about the bugs they knit. So please help us multiply our microbes by knitting them some friends.”

Glasgow City of Science is a joint campaign with over 50 partners including universities, public sector bodies, the Science Centre and industry, to raise the profile of Glasgow and the West of Scotland as a world-class science destination and make best use of this expertise and heritage to boost sustainable economic development and quality of life.

Professor Jacqui Reilly, who works in Health Protection Scotland and leads a team of researchers in GCU working on healthcare associated infection (HAI), said: “Hand hygiene is the best way to avoid colds, flu and other viruses and is the first line of defence against the spread of many infections, which can disrupt school attendance and working days lost at schools. This lesson is a fun and memorable way to teach an approach which will stay with children as they grow up.

“Scientific evidence shows that implementing hygiene measures such as these reduces risk of illness and can protect health for life.”