With much information about biosecurity revolving around current equine herpesvirus infections, salmonellosis, and the upcoming foaling season, one small but important item has been often omitted. Animal workers and veterinarians should wash their hands after handling infected or suspect animals, but with what?

In the February 2006 Journal of Hospital Infection (Letters to the Editor), a study was reported evaluating 12 cakes of soap and 10 samples of liquid soap used in different human hospital wards. The purpose was to determine if either type of soap could carry bacteria. All solid soap samples had heavy contamination of Psuedomonas and one also contained Staphylococcus (both can be equine pathogens). However, none of the liquid soap samples contained any aerobic bacteria.

It is theorized that contaminated hands contact solid soap, and the resulting wet soap contains some remaining bacteria, thus being a source of future hand contamination. Liquid soap does not come in contact with hands, so it doesn’t get contaminated.

What is in your tack room, wash room, or by the garden hose? Use of simple liquid soap, water, and paper towels is the best method to routinely wash hands. With sick horses, disposable gloves should be used in handling animals and their equipment, followed by washing with liquid soap and water. If those are not readily available, waterless handfoams or gels of at least 62% ethyl alcohol are also effective.