We all know that people who have flu symptoms can share their illness with others through coughing, sneezing, and by touching shared surfaces. You may not realize, however, that people who are in the process of getting the flu can transmit the virus to others before their symptoms even begin. This means that the person sitting next to you at work or in a restaurant could be unknowingly sharing their virus with you. Other than the flu shot, how can we prevent the spread of flu?
Hand washing is an effective way to prevent transmission of many illnesses, including influenza.
Here are some hand-washing tips for when you are out in the community:
- Use plenty of soap and water.
- Use friction; rub vigorously for 15-20 seconds.
- Do not forget between the fingers and the backs of the hands.
- Rinse well.
- Do not turn off the faucet bare-handed. This re-contaminates your hands. Use a dry paper towel, your elbow, etc.
- Dry hands with a disposable towel. Air dryers are even better!
- Use some hand lotion. Many of us suffer from cracked, dry skin in the winter. Keeping the skin on your hands healthy is a good way to keep germs out.
- When you leave the rest room, avoid touching the door handle, if possible.
- If there is no where to wash, hand-sanitizers (60% alcohol or more) are effective: use plenty (your hands should be wet all over) and rub vigorously until dry. Keep some in your purse, car, backpack, etc.
- When you return home after being out in the community.
- Before preparing food and before eating.
- Before and after smoking.
- Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- After using the bathroom.
- After using tissues.
- Any time they appear soiled.
Keep your illness to yourself by:
- Staying home when you are sick.
- Not sharing eating utensils during flu season! Absolutely no double-dipping!
- Covering coughs and sneezes; use the crook of your elbow, rather than your hands.
- Washing your hands or using hand sanitizer frequently, particularly after coughing or blowing your nose.
- Disposing of used tissues right away.
- Talking to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. The prompt use of anti-viral medications may decrease the length of your illness and keep you from spreading it to others.
Influenza prevention is very important.
The flu is not just a bad cold. It can cause severe respiratory illness. Every year in the United States many adults and some children die from complications of the flu. So, get your flu shot, stay home when you are sick, wash your hands frequently, and talk to your healthcare provider if you or a loved one becomes ill.
Click here for weekly flu updates from the New York State Department of Health.
Click here for flu updates from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Click here for what you need to know about the 2013-2014 influenza season.