Background: Hand hygiene is an important element of infection control. We conducted 2 surveys on hand hygiene practices and use of personal protective equipment among medical students during and after the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to study its impact on their personal hygiene practice when they contacted patients.
Methods: Two cross-sectional surveys were conducted among medical students in their clinical training years (years 3-5) in a teaching hospital (at which the first and major SARS outbreak occurred) in March 2003 and August 2004, respectively.
Results: Prior to the recognition of the SARS outbreak in March 2003, 35.2% of the students washed their hands before and 72.5% after they physically examined patients in the wards. None of the students wore masks during history taking and physical examination. In the 2004 survey, the corresponding proportions were 60.3% and 100%, respectively, and 86.1% and 93.8% of students wore masks during history taking and physical examination, respectively. Attitudes to handwashing and perception of infection risk were not significantly associated with handwashing practice, whereas peer behavior might be a significant influencing factor.
Conclusion: A significant improvement in compliance with hand hygiene practice was found after the SARS outbreak.