Here’s one thing you might not know: On average, doctors and nurses clean their hands between patients only 50% of the time, according to the National Quality Forum. The dirty truth can be deadly, as MSN reminds us in its re-print of 20 infection-related tidbits from Discover. #17-19:

17. Up to a quarter of all women giving birth in European and American hospitals in the 17th through 19th centuries died of puerperal fever, an infection spread by unhygienic nurses and doctors.

18. TV kills! University of Arizona researchers determined that television remotes are the worst carriers of bacteria in hospital rooms, worse even than toilet handles. Remotes spread antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus, which contributes to the 90,000 annual deaths from infection acquired in hospitals.

19. It is now believed President James Garfield died not from the bullet fired by Charles Guiteau but because the medical team treated the president with manure-stained hands, causing a severe infection that killed him three months later.

The rest of the list is here.

Handwashing is proven to prevent the spread of potentially deadly hospital infections. At a Pennsylvania hospital, one medical team was able to reduce central line-associated bloodstream infections 90% in 90 days after adopting rigorous hand hygiene. In Michigan, good hygiene practices led to a two-thirds reduction in device-related infections in over a hundred intensive care units.

Federal health agencies have warned hospitals of the link between poor hand hygiene and infection for decades. This is the kind of advice that should stick like germs. So why don’t all hospital staff follow a basic handwashing regime 100% of the time?

Some people have a hard time following rules, whether they forget or just don’t feel like it; and too often, hospital staff is no exception. But until handwashing gets the respect it deserves, we shouldn’t be ashamed to ask our doctors if they’ve washed their hands before touching us.