Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. Handwashing helps prevent infections because:

People frequently touch their eyes, nose and mouth without even realizing it. Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth and make us sick.

Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. Germs can multiply in some types of foods or drinks, under certain conditions, and make people sick.

Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, like handrails, table tops or toys, and then transferred to another person’s hands.

About 1.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia, the top two killers of young children around the world. Handwashing with soap could protect about 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost 1 out of 5 young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia.

Preventing sickness reduces the amount of antibiotics people use and the likelihood that antibiotic resistance will develop. Handwashing can prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20% of respiratory infections (e.g., colds).

Reducing the number of these infections by washing hands frequently helps prevent the overuse of antibiotics—the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world.

The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water whenever possible because handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals on hands. But if soap and water are not available, using a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

Why is handwashing preferred over hand sanitizers? Soap and water are more effective at removing certain kinds of germs, like norovirus and Clostridium difficile. Although alcohol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes very effectively, people may not use a large enough volume of the sanitizers or may wipe it off before it has dried. Hand sanitizers may also not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 3 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce, no salt added
  • 1 (4 ounce) can green chilies
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 cup frozen corn (optional)
  • Cheese, shredded (optional)
  • Cooked rice or corn chips (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro, gently rubbed under cold running water, chopped (optional)

Wash hands with soap and water.

Spray slow cooker bowl with non-stick cooking spray.

Place chicken breasts in bottom of slow cooker. Wash hands with soap and water after handling uncooked chicken.

Add tomatoes, black beans, tomato sauce, green chilies, salsa and corn, if desired. Gently combine.

Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours and until internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F as measured with a food thermometer.

Thirty minutes before serving, remove chicken breast and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir.

Serve over rice or top with cheese, tortilla chips or cilantro, if desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 230 calories, 2g fat, 845 mg sodium, 32 g carbohydrates 10 g fiber.

Cami Wells is an Extension Educator for Nebraska Extension in Hall County. Contact her at (308) 385-5088 or at Visit the Hall County website at

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