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Infectious diseases circulating in the home and community are a continuing and significant burden on the health and prosperity of the European community. They could, however, be significantly reduced by better standards of hygiene. Across Europe, public health is currently structured such that the separate aspects of hygiene in different settings (food hygiene, personal hygiene, handwashing, pandemic flu preparedness, patient empowerment etc.) are dealt with by separate agencies. If efforts to promote hygiene at community level are to be successful in changing behaviour, we need a concerted family-centred approach to ensure that a basic understanding of infectious disease agents and their mechanisms of spread, together with an understanding of a risk-based approach to hygiene, are promoted as part of the school curriculum and as part of public health campaigns. Alongside this, we also need unambiguous communication with the public on issues such as the hygiene hypothesis and environmental issues.


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