A handy solution to illness

Reporter: Shannon Samson
New Media Producer: Rachel Beavin

A Warrick County High School has figured out how to drastically cut the illness rate among its students. The secret is hand sanitizers strategically placed all over campus.

New to Castle High School this school year, eleven hand sanitizing units in hallways and the lunch room. So far, they've cost just over $600 to maintain. The principal says they've been worth every penny.

Students not only took to the concept immediately, they're actually missing school less. Castle High School Nurse, RN Ronnie Smith says, "As they leave, they do use the sanitizer. I don't have to say anything to them about it. They just automatically do it."

Just a squirt before lunch, or between classes, or in the nurse's office; Castle High School students are making good use of the automatic hand sanitizers. Student Stuart Harris says he has noticed a difference, "I'm less sick."

Castle junior Abby Risner says, "I haven't been absent... I know, a lot less than I usually am." And senior Jordan Holl sees a big difference, "I haven't been sick since... Since they installed them really."

Since last school year, the nurse has sent home 40% fewer freshmen for cold or flu-like symptoms. Among seniors, it's 88% less. During 2005-2006, Castle was ranked 10th for absenteeism among the 16 Warrick County Schools. This year, it's ranked 3rd.

Kim Bellessa, Saint Mary's Infection Control Coordinator doesn't doubt the data, but cautions the product does have its limits, "It probably does help with the cold and flu, but let me stress 'probably' because the testing is not there to support that."

It has been tested and works well against bacteria like salmonella, shigella, e-coli and staph. For hands that are visibly dirty, Bellessa says she recommends actual hand washing over sanitizing, "It has its place, but not to replace soap and water. You can use it as an adjunct."

And use it as much as you want she says. It comes in especially handy for senior Jordan Holl who says he offers free hugs to fellow students without fearing their germs, "It's a chance I'm willing to take. I have a high immune system. I sanitize my hands so it's all good."

For best results, the infection control coordinator recommends using hand sanitizers with anywhere from 60 to 95 percent alcohol in them.