Focus: Infection Control

NY dedicates statue to handwashing champion

May 16, 2019

The New York State Department has dedicated a statue of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis at the entrance of its Wadsworth Center Biggs Laboratory in Albany, according to the Occupational Health and Safety website.

Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician who saw in 1847 that disinfection from handwashing drastically reduced mortality rates at Vienna General Hospital in Austria – a practice he championed until his death despite much criticism, the article said.

When Semmelweis began requiring all doctors and medical students to wash their hands to disinfect themselves before treating patients, the rates of maternal mortality were drastically reduced.

"This statue will serve as a reminder of a practice that is near and dear to public health: the simple, yet vital, act of handwashing to help prevent the spread of illness," said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. 

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