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wash your hands - Semmelweis

150 years after Semmelweis we understood that it is important to wash our hands

We had dreamed of flying cars and colonies on Mars, instead of in 2020 we find ourselves fighting the coronavirus remembering that you need to wash your hands thoroughly to avoid the spread of infections and diseases.

Only the scientific method can bring out the truth

It is the bumpy road of medical science, for millennia opposed by shamanism sufferers, magical practices and anti-vaccinists of all kinds and degrees, who do not understand that the scientific method must be defended and also used to investigate possible alternative truths.

Just think that at the end of the 19th-century doctor Ignác Semmelweis, employed in the prestigious Wiener Universitätsklinikum (Viennese university clinic), suggested that puerperal fever could spread among the patients because the interns went straight from the autopsy room to the wards where visiting pregnant women without first washing their hands thoroughly, he was attacked by the university barons of the time.

Semmelweis: the importance of washing your hands

Not only that: Semmelweis, Hungarian in a period in which Hungary tried to escape Austrian domination, was fired on the spot with the accusation of being a subversive and his theory, with very few exceptions, was rejected in bulk by the scientific community.

Austrian doctors xix century

Semmelweis then returns to Pest, at the San Rocco hospital, apply his methods and, “by magic”, significantly reduces the mortality rate between pregnant women. In 1861 he, therefore, decided to publish the results of his research in a treatise entitled: “Etiology, concept and prophylaxis of puerperal fever”.

The doctors of that time ridiculed Semmelweis

The result: doctors from all over Europe give him charlatan, to the point that Semmelweis, now out of work and reduced to the pavement, is hospitalized in an asylum due to a form of psychosis probably induced perhaps by professional persecution (although it cannot be excluded that it may have been linked to neurosyphilis, a disease contracted during his work).

Fortunately, these are outdated things, you will think. Not really: there have been fierce controversies over the past few weeks as to whether or not to carry out carpet tests to arrive at correct numbers of the coronavirus infection. Against slightly more than 102 thousand official infected at 30 March in Italy (according to data from the Civil Protection, based on the swabs made), a research by the Imperial College of London estimated between 1.9 and 15.2 million Italians really infected.

Coronavirus: The real numbers and the importance of lockdown

It means that on average about 5.9 million Italians would have already contracted the coronavirus, but not only. The same study reveals that without school closure measures and any non-essential activities, the so-called “lockdown”, to the over 12 thousand deaths already officially registered, other 38 thousand deaths should have been added (the estimate varies between a minimum of another 13 thousand and a maximum of another 84 thousand).

Semmelweis portrait

Nonetheless, we have the daily controversy of those who would like to “open, open everything” as soon as possible, heedless (or unconscious?) of the risks that a premature reopening would entail for the life of tens of thousands of Italians. And the situation does not seem very different in other countries in the world.

Who knows what poor Semmelweis would say if he discovered that 150 after his research we have learned the importance of washing our hands carefully, to eliminate any viruses and bacteria present on the epidermis, but we still refuse to accept the scientific method as the main road to follow even more so in the verification of possible alternative truths compared to the official ones.

Tags: Sciences, Health, history