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Handwashing by Children Can Reduce Spread of Diseases

Diarrhea and pneumonia are the two leading causes of children's deaths in developing countries. But a new study from Pakistan suggests the simple act of handwashing with soap can greatly decrease a child's chances of developing these infections.

Children who wash their hands with soap reduce their chance of getting diarrhea or pneumonia by 50 percent, according to a study in the medical journal Lancet.

Three million children under the age of five die each year from diarrhea and respiratory tract infections. But this study, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, offers a potential solution in lowering those numbers.

Researchers for the CDC offered free soap and weekly encouragement to 600 families in a poor area of Pakistan. After a year, researchers found children who were part of those families in the study had a 50 percent lower rate of diarrhea and pneumonia than a separate group of 300 families that did not receive free soap.

The study also found handwashing with soap lowered the rate of the contagious skin infection impetigo by one-third.

Some healthcare workers believe this study should be implemented on a wider scale and more should be done to promote hygiene issues worldwide.