Every year, thousands of people from the UK travel to other countries for work and leisure. Europe, and particularly Spain, is one of the most popular travel destinations for people from the UK. However, it is known that travel to other countries can enhance the risk of communicable disease transmission from person to person, especially when a new one emerges. Adequate hand hygiene behaviour and compliance is widely accepted as being a simple, effective method in preventing the spread of communicable diseases that may be contracted during travel abroad. There is a well-established body of work investigating hand hygiene practice and compliance in community settings, but no recent studies have examined the hand hygiene practice and compliance of the general population when travelling abroad or in a cross-European context. The findings of this study indicated that most UK members of the general population when travelling abroad have a good level of understanding of the importance of adequate hand hygiene practice and compliance and its role regarding communicable disease prevention and control. As such, self-reported levels of compliance were high. Similar findings were made for Spanish members of the general population. However, while self-reported perceptions of adequacy of hand hygiene performance were relatively high, particularly among UK respondents, this was not supported by responses specifically focused on hand hygiene behaviour. However, differences in self-reported adequacy regarding the importance of handwashing versus hand drying, the number of steps that should be followed and the length of time that should be spent washing and drying hands were found for each group. This suggests that self-reported compliance may reflect intention to practice hand hygiene rather than true compliance. It also suggests that there are gaps in knowledge regarding the adequate method of hand hygiene among the cohort as a whole, and indeed these differences may account be a factor in for the high transmission rates of communicable disease when travelling abroad.
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