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March 15, 2000

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Hopkins Doctor Uses "Glow Germ" to Teach Cleanliness to Kids and Starts Hand Washing Campaign at Hopkins

It's "Unmillenium" to NOT Wash Your Hands

When Trish Perl, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, recently visited two local middle schools, she came armed with a UV light and a bottle of glow germ. Her mission, to emphasize the importance of hand washing, was a shining success, such a success that the kids are helping her launch a hand washing campaign at Hopkins.

"The ‘glow germ' is actually cornstarch with a luminescent substance that shines under UV light," said Perl. "I use it to teach kids how germs can be transferred from surfaces and the importance of scrubbing their hands."

To make this point, Perl sprinkles "glow germ" on a pen and passes it around the classroom. "When the kids see how easily the germ is spread, quite a few exclamations of ‘gross' are heard," said Perl. Then, Perl discusses the different types of germs in the environment, how they can be harmful, and how they are spread.

Perl also helped students design experiments to determine whether water, soap and water, or sanitizer is the best cleanser. "It is exciting to lead them through the scientific process," said Perl. "They divide up into groups to use different cleaning methods and they assign certain students to score the methods. In all of their experiments, commercial sanitizer was the worst and some of the children who use the sanitizer were really surprised."

For the past three years, Perl has offered these hand-washing lessons to the schools her three daughters attend. This year, students are designing hand-washing posters that will be displayed as part of a hand-washing campaign at Hopkins. "The ideas they come up with are fresher than any posters that I have seen," says Perl. "One announced that ‘it is unmillenium to NOT wash your hands.' Another one proclaimed ‘my name is bubbleman–soap is my game.' Others are sassy." And the hand-washing campaign slogan is based on another refreshing poster, ‘It's not just kid's stuff, wash em!'

To learn more about Trish Perl and infection control, visit Healthcare Epidemiology and Infection Control at Hopkins at http://www.hopkins-heic.org. To interview Perl, call Kate O'Rourke at 410-955-8665 or email at korourke@jhmi.edu

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