WHO/Europe celebrates Ignác Semmelweis’ work on infection control


Dr István Mikola, Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, and Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe met on 6 May 2015.

Ignác Semmelweis was a Hungarian physician and scientist who pioneered antisepsis procedures to control hospital infections. This year marks the 150th anniversary of his death. As part of celebrations recognizing his achievements, WHO/Europe is hosting an exhibition in his honour at UN City in Copenhagen.

 Although unpopular in his lifetime, Semmelweis introduced measures that remain essential to modern health care. For example, in 1851 he established compulsory hand washing with calcium hypochlorite at the Saint Rokus Hospital in Budapest for physicians, medical students, nurses and auxiliary personnel before they could enter maternity wards, thereby dramatically reducing maternal mortality rates.

"The work of Semmelweis has clear and evidence-based messages. The importance of asepsis and antisepsis is growing these days, as WHO warns of serious threats to which patients are exposed. Clean hands are indeed our best measure against the spread of infections, which are increasingly and disturbingly resistant to antibiotics," said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, at the exhibition opening on 6 May 2015.

Dr István Mikola, Minister of State at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, and H. E. László Hellebrandt, Hungarian Ambassador to Denmark, also took part in the opening ceremony.

Meeting between Minister of State for Hungary and Regional Director

During a bilateral meeting on 6 May, Dr István Mikola and Zsuzsanna Jakab discussed ongoing collaboration between the Government of Hungary and WHO. They also addressed specific issues including the current Ebola emergency and response; the crisis in Ukraine; health policy and public health work in the areas of vaccine-preventable diseases, antimicrobial resistance, noncommunicable diseases, Health 2020 and intersectoral work; and health system strengthening and financing.