Fall is officially here – and with the shorter days and cooler weather, comes a…
Fall is officially here – and with the shorter days and cooler weather, comes a reminder of the approaching flu season, with some states already reporting some early flu cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity typically begins in October and peaks in the United States between December and February.
“Based on what we’ve seen out of Australia, the U.S. can expect a moderate to severe flu season,” says William Schaffner, M.D., professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University. “Australia saw an early start to their flu season, with a predominant circulation of the influenza A (H3N2) virus. The good news is that strain was included in this year’s flu vaccine for the U.S. and since every flu season is different, the U.S. flu season won’t necessarily follow the same pattern as Australia.”
“Hand hygiene is a critically important component in reducing the risk of getting sick with the flu,” says Jim Arbogast, Ph.D., vice president, hygiene sciences and public health advancements, GOJO, the inventor of PURELL hand sanitizer.
Be prepared for the upcoming cold and flu season with these five tips.
According to the CDC, the single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year. As the flu vaccine takes approximately two weeks to work, the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older get a flu vaccine by the end of October – before the flu begins spreading in your community.
It’s especially important for those at high-risk for developing flu-related complications be vaccinated – that includes those age 65 and older, pregnant women, young children, and those with chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.
The flu vaccine reduces your risk of getting sick with the flu, and can reduce the severity of your illness if you do develop the flu. During the 2017-2018 U.S. flu season, the flu vaccine prevented an estimated 7.1 million illnesses, 3.7 million hospitalizations, and 8,000 deaths associated with the flu.
Keep your hands clean
Health experts know that more than 80 percent of illnesses can be transmitted by hands. Just one hand soiled with pathogens can contaminate over half of the employees in an office before lunchtime.
According to the CDC, keeping your hands clean through improved hand hygiene is one of the most important preventative measures you can take to reduce your risk of getting sick or spreading germs to others.
CDC recommendations include handwashing with soap and water for 20 seconds (hum “Happy Birthday” twice) or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol (when soap and water are not available) at key moments throughout the day.
Know when to clean your hands
Knowing when to clean your hands is a key component in practicing good hand hygiene.
Critical times include before eating or preparing food; after touching something that could be contaminated, such as a garbage can or restaurant menu; after caring for someone who is sick; after changing diapers; after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing; and of course after using the bathroom.
Clean high-touch surfaces
Since so many illnesses are transmitted by touch, it’s important to clean objects and surfaces that people may frequently encounter, such as cell phones, door handles, handrails, elevator buttons, refrigerator handles, shopping cart handles, countertops, etc.
After touching these surfaces, people often touch their face, other objects or other people, spreading these germs further. Disinfecting surfaces and objects helps eliminate the number of germs that are passed around and picked up by others, breaking the cycle of infection.
If you’re sick, stay home
Be a hero to others this cold and flu season, stay home. It’s an important way we can help stop spreading the flu to our co-workers or fellow students.
A survey conducted by Wakefield Research revealed that 69 percent of working Americans don’t take sick days because they don’t want to miss a day of work, even if they’re actually sick.
If you’re sick and think you can head into work and just keep your distance from others in the office, think again – people with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away.
People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins. The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.