Singapore urges public to pass the soap

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SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Singapore, one of cleanest nations in Southeast Asia, launched on Monday a campaign to teach people how to wash their hands properly to help curb the spread of disease.

The campaign was planned before governments around the world moved to contain the spread of the swine flu virus, which has so far killed 103 people in Mexico, and spread to the United States and possibly as far as New Zealand.

Leading public hospital Tan Tock Seng kicked off the “CSI” or clean, safe, infection-free campaign with a lucky draw that gives thorough hand-washers the chance to win a sports car, a plasma TV or shopping vouchers.

“Good hand hygiene is crucial in stemming the spread of infections and there is no reason why the public should not learn the seven steps to hand washing practiced by medical professionals,” said Chng Hiok Hee, a doctor at the hospital and the head of the two-month-long campaign.

The seven handwashing steps include interlacing your fingers and rubbing your hands together, rubbing your thumbs and wrists, and rubbing your fingertips on your palms, to clean all areas.

Like other nations in Asia, Singapore, which was hit hard by the 2003 SARS respiratory virus epidemic, is on alert for swine flu, stepping up precautionary measures by putting thermal scanners at its airport to check the temperatures of travelers.

Influenza can spread from coughs or sneezes, but an increasing body of evidence shows little particles of virus can linger on tabletops, telephones and other surfaces and be transferred via the fingers to the mouth, nose or eyes.

Little can be done to prevent an outbreak of flu from spreading, health experts caution, but they say common sense measures can help individuals protect themselves and the number one action is handwashing.

Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Miral Fahmy