Global Study Reveals Public's Knowledge Gaps About Illness-Causing Germs, And How It May Impact Prevention During Cold And Flu Season

Nov 14, 2013, 08:30 ET from The Hygiene Council

PARSIPPANY, N.J., Nov. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The Hygiene Council – a body of leading international experts in the field of microbiology and virology supported by an unrestricted grant from Reckitt Benckiser, the parent company of the LYSOL® brand – released a new study indicating that moms are not always clear on which germs are harmful to their families' health and why it is important to protect against them. Some germs lead to coughs, sneezes and upset stomachs that may result in lost school and work days. During cold and flu season, it is important to know what germs can cause illness and how to stop them from spreading in order to stay well.

In the Hygiene Council study, only half of U.S. moms surveyed felt that the microbe that causes diarrheal illness, campylobacter,[1] was a harmful germ, compared to 78 percent of moms who believed MRSA was harmful.  When it comes to taking the proper steps to ensure homes are germ-free, 28 percent of moms believed that being too clean and not killing such germs could actually increase the likelihood of children developing allergies.

"The data show that moms have been misinformed with regard to the correlation between immunity and exposure to germs. They need guidance on the difference between harmless and harmful germs," said Professor John Oxford, Chairman of the Hygiene Council and Professor of Virology at Barts and The London School of Dentistry.  "While there also appears to be a growing belief that one can be 'too clean', such as by overusing disinfecting agents and sanitizers, there is no scientific evidence to support this notion. The Hygiene Council wants to reassure moms that building hygiene into their family's daily routine is an important way to help prevent the spread of infection this cold and flu season."

The Hygiene Council also surveyed moms about their thoughts on exposure to germs and found some confusion among the risks and perceived benefits. Despite knowledge that exposure to some germs can make you ill, only 43 percent of U.S. moms reported being concerned or very concerned about their children coming into contact with germs. Nearly 20 percent of moms would let their children pick up a cold from other children to help build their immunity, and the same percentage would even let their children eat food that has fallen on the floor.

The moms surveyed, however, did reinforce CDC recommendations in noting how they would protect their children from bad germs. When moms were asked what precautionary measures they would take if they heard there was an illness circulating, the most popular measure (78 percent) was to ensure that their children washed their hands more frequently.

"The fact that so many moms encourage hand washing means that there is an understanding of how germs are passed from person to person," said Dr. Philip Tierno, Director Clinical Microbiology & Immunology at NYU Langone Medical Center, and U.S. Hygiene Council representative. "We just have to work to ensure that this knowledge goes into practice in homes."

The Hygiene Council encourages families to practice simple prevention measures, which follow recommendations put forth by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), as a way to help stop the transmission of germs that cause the flu.[2]

  • Get vaccinated with a seasonal flu shot. The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccination.
  • Always practice proper etiquette when sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often and use hand sanitizer if you don't have access to a sink.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surface areas in your home and workplace, with products such as LYSOL® Disinfectant Spray, especially when someone is sick.[3]

For more information about ways to stay healthy during cold and flu season, visit

About Reckitt Benckiser
Reckitt Benckiser (RB) is a global consumer goods leader in health, hygiene and home. With a purpose of delivering innovative solutions for healthier lives and happier homes, RB is in the top 25 of companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. Since 2000 net revenues have doubled and the market cap has quadrupled. Today, it is the global No. 1 or No. 2 in the majority of its fast-growing categories, driven by an exceptional rate of innovation. Its health, hygiene and home portfolio is led by 19 global powerbrands including Nurofen, StrepsilsGaviscon, Mucinex, Durex, Scholl, Lysol, Dettol, Clearasil, Veet, Harpic, Bang, Mortein, Finish, Vanish, Woolite, Calgon, Airwick,  and French's, and they account for 70 percent of  net revenue.

RB people are at the heart of the company's success. They have an intense drive for action and a desire to outperform wherever they focus, including in CSR where the company is reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2020 and has a global partnership with Save the Children.

The company has operations in over 60 countries, with headquarters in the UK, Singapore, Dubai and Amsterdam, and sales in almost 200 countries. The company employs about 32,000 people worldwide.

For more information, visit

[1] Campylobacter: General Information.
[2] Prevention.
[3] Consensus Statement from the Global Hygiene Council.

SOURCE The Hygiene Council