Good hygiene is your best defense against disease

Feb 2, 2024 | 0 comments

By Garnett Stewart

Last week, in a public open-air market in Centro, the salesperson sneezed three times on her produce without trying to control her secretions. I respectfully asked her to wash her face and hands. I begged her to protect everyone’s health. I asked her not to touch the produce with dirty hands.

She laughed. I asked her neighbor in the next stall if she would cover her produce while the other vendor washed. She agreed but no action was taken.

I must remind everyone that at the very least, we must all practice good hygiene. Many people fail to monitor their sanitation. This is my observation of the average Ecuadorian adult or child.  A middle-class Ecuadorian took offense to my observations. She claimed that because of Covid, things are much better today. I believe that is true in various areas and situations. But backsliding is something we all do, and I observe more harmful practices than others. I’m watching closely.

How do you wash your hands? In your head, sing Happy Birthday three times. This is the bare minimum for hand washing with friction. While soap and water are preferred, friction removes the vast majority of germs, viruses, and other organisms. This is not a soft light soaping, but rather a strong hand and nail scrub. At home, I have a nail brush that I use twice a day.  I clean my hands and nails before cooking. Of course, after the bathroom, but also sometimes before.

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I have only had one cold in nearly seven years.  It was a gift from a sneezing friend with aerosolized mucus.

When I lived in Costa Rica, Ticos washed their faces and hands three times per day and brushed their teeth after each meal. Every lunch, I noticed 15 to 20 children doing this.

They reapplied makeup frequently. There was a lot of facial touching too, but they used soap and water for proper hand cleaning.  It was customary in Costa Rica.

Have you ever seen a cluster washing up here?

When we were kids, we started learning hygiene and anatomy at the age of 5 or 6. I recall this perfectly. I recall the mornings and afternoons in kindergarten when we all washed up. I recall being splashed with water, and we made keeping safe quite enjoyable.  We teach tiny children the eye, ear, nose, and mouth game, but it appears that parents here do not discuss safe hygiene, let alone safe sex.

Ecuadorians do not receive that type of hygiene education. They are not taught anatomy or proper body terms. I know because I asked. I’ve witnessed. I have buddies who are teachers.

The majority of middle- and upper-class children attend higher-performing private schools with diverse philosophies. I believe some people learn cleanliness, but it appears that home education is the primary method.

They lack fundamental knowledge of pregnant anatomy and general health. My interns tell me stories from provincial hospitals. These young teen females may not understand how they became pregnant, but they refuse to get any protective teaching. They oppose simple birth control. He stated that out of 37 deliveries by teen mothers under the age of 16, not a single new mother took precautions to avoid becoming ill or pregnant.  In 2023, Vicente Moscoso Hospital had 37 patients in a single 24-hour shift.

Ecuadorians do not wash their hands multiple times each day. (I hope you do and if not will start.) The locals don’t brush their teeth after eating. They don’t monitor their mucous for the sake of others. I’ve personally witnessed this. They cough and sneeze into their palms. There are no tissues used. They don’t use their sleeves. And after coughing, I see almost no hygienic interventions.

I’ve never seen a woman do this awful act, but I have seen guys blast snot rockets at bus and train stations with no regard for the repercussions.

Even after Covid, hygiene procedures are not being followed.

In my next column, I will discuss Covid and its resurgence. I will provide effective treatments, and I will remind each of you to handle the vaccine issue. It means a lot to me personally. Unfortunately, I lost 60 international friends and associates in 2020 and a few more in 2021. Now, I have four long-term covid pals here, as well as several stateside. I’ve read that cases are resurfacing over the world. That is why I covered the fundamentals. They are necessary and mandatory.

Be well and safe.

Wash your hands.

Permanent resident Garnett Clarke Stewart. A retired Adult Medicine Nurse Practitioner with a specialty in Cardiology and Cardiovascular Surgery. An author of several published articles. Holder of Bachelors and Masters degrees in Nursing.Undergraduate university studies focused on biochemistry and biophysics. She can be contacted at


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