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Hands up! Who believes in cleanliness?

Germs almost killed the Internet this week.

Well, that may be an exaggeration, but the social media uproar over Fox News host Pete Hegseth’s comments that, “Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them; therefore, they’re not real,” certainly went, well, viral.

The TV talking head went on to say that he probably hadn’t washed his hands in 10 years.

That declaration was fairly universally met with one resounding sentiment: Yuck!

Hegseth later walked back those comments, saying it was all a big joke and that no one should have been so gullible as to actually believe it.

The problem is that many people did — and share similar views.

Whether or not Hegseth was truly just trying to be funny or was being honest and is now trying to do damage control after public criticism exploded is somewhat irrelevant.

The bottom line is neither his comments nor the subsequent media cycle made his intentions clear. That’s an undeniable problem as many people don’t have the filter to know the difference.

And, whether they either don’t believe in the power of cleanliness or simply refuse to take the steps required, the reality is many people don’t put scrubbing their digits at near a high enough priority.

Do you need proof you can actually see? Just look at what is happening across the Commonwealth when it comes to communicable diseases.

Influenza continues to wreak havoc in our communities. The Kentucky Department of Public Health has labeled the current flu activity level as “widespread.”

Flu cases have been confirmed in at least 100 of our 120 counties, according to the most recent report from the Department for Public Health. The confirmed total for the 2018-2019 season is 7,285 cases.

Last week’s total of 1,876 cases was the highest single week of the season.

It also raises the question of how many more cases are out there that aren’t getting reported or lab tested?

Similarly, Hepatitis A has skyrocketed to the levels of an all-out public health crisis.

A recent report shows the number of cases at 3,919, resulting in 1,905 hospitalizations and 40 deaths, since the outbreak began being tracked in November 2017. Hepatitis A has been reported in 103 of Kentucky’s 120 counties with nine of those — including Fayette — having more than 100 reported cases.

What’s the common thread here? Both Hepatitis A and the flu are largely preventable through vaccinations; and the chances to catch or spread either can be greatly reduced simply by washing your hands.

That is not an opinion. It’s not a gut feeling. These are facts, proven and supported by mountains of science.

Many of us hold fast to our faith, defined as the “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” This often gets viewed in the religious connotation, but it also means accepting something as truth when confronted with overwhelming data and a strong consensus of experts.

Regardless, it doesn’t require a great leap to head to the sink a few more times every day.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Jessamine Journal and Jessamine Life magazine. He can be reached at (859) 759-0095 or by email at mike.caldwell@jessaminejournal.com.