Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs
1. Avoid close contact.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
2. Stay home when you are sick.
- Stay home from work, child care, school, and errands when you are sick, except to seek medical careKeep sick children at home except to see medical care. You will help prevent others from catching the illness.
3. Cover your mouth and nose.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
4. Wash your hands often.
- Washing your hands and the hands of your children often will help protect you from germs.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits.
- Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
There is no vaccine available at this time for this new flu virus , so it is important for people living in the affected areas to take steps to prevent spreading the virus to others. If people are ill, they should stay at home and limit contact with others, except to seek medical care. Healthy residents living in these areas should take the everyday preventive actions listed above.
People who live in these areas who develop an illness with fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, and possibly other symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, should contact their health care provider. Their health care provider will determine whether influenza testing is needed.
What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
How does swine flu spread?
Spread of this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
Can I get swine influenza from eating or preparing pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.
How can someone with the flu infect someone else?
Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
What should I do to keep from getting the flu?
First and most important: wash your hands. Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with these swine influenza viruses. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms).
How long can an infected person spread swine flu to others?
People with swine influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possible for up to 7 days following illness onset. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.
What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?
Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.
How long can viruses live outside the body?
We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks. Frequent handwashing will help you reduce the chance of getting contamination from these common surfaces.
What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?
If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work or school if ill. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.
What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash with soap and water or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. We recommend that when you wash your hands — with soap and warm water — that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn’t need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.
What should I do if I get sick?
If you live in areas where swine influenza cases have been identified and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, you may want to contact their health care provider, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.
If you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.
If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.
In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
How serious is swine flu infection?
Like seasonal flu, swine flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. Between 2005 until January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the U.S. with no deaths occurring. However, swine flu infection can be serious. In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman in Wisconsin was hospitalized for pneumonia after being infected with swine flu and died 8 days later. A swine flu outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey occurred in 1976 that caused more than 200 cases with serious illness in several people and one death.
Seasonal Flu Strategies Vaccinations
Early Detection and Treatment The single best way to protect yourself and others against influenza is to get a flu vaccination each year.
The “flu shot” is an inactivated vaccine that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for people older than six months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions. There is no risk of getting the flu from this inactive vaccine.
The nasal-spray flu vaccine is made with live, weakened viruses that do not cause the flu. It is approved for use in healthy people two years to 49 years
Pandemic Flu Strategies
Should a pandemic begin, a vaccine may not yet be widely available, and the supply of antiviral drugs may be limited. Thus infection control measures will be of primary importance in helping to protect the health and safety of employees. Infection control in the workplace will focus on:
• Hand Hygiene
• Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette
• Workplace Hygiene
• Social Distancing
Hand Hygiene Hand hygiene has frequently been cited as the single most important practice to reduce the transmission of germs in healthcare settings and is an essential element of standard infection control measures. The term “hand hygiene” includes washing your hands with soap and water and the use of alcohol-based products (gels, rinses, foams) containing an emollient that do not require the use of water.
Wash your hands with plain soap and water, or with antimicrobial soap and water, if:
• Your hands are visibly soiled
• Your hands are visibility contaminated with respiratory secretions (after coughing or sneezing)
• Before or after food preparation and eating
• After using the restroom
Hand Hygiene: When to Use an Alcohol-Based Rub
If your hands are not visibly dirty, you can clean your hands effectively using an approved alcohol-based product which disinfects your hands.
Respiratory Hygiene/Cough Etiquette
How are you most likely to get the flu from another person? Evidence suggests that the transmission of human influenza virus probably occurs largely through exposure to large droplets, which can transfer from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes without properly covering his or her mouth. Another person can become infected by inhaling these droplets or touching a contaminated surface and then touching his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
Good respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette techniques are important any time you cough or sneeze. When coughing or sneezing, you should cover your mouth with a tissue and then dispose of it appropriately. If a tissue is not available, you should cough into your shirtsleeve or the inside of your elbow.
Should a pandemic hit, you have a responsibility to help prevent the spread of disease from yourself to your co-workers by using good hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Of course, any employee who contracts pandemic flu should stay home until he or she is no longer infectious.
Work Space Hygiene
It’s not just coughing or sneezing – viruses can be passed to another person from infected desktops, phones, and other office equipment. In fact, virus particles can live for up to two days on these hard surfaces.
So it’s important that you take steps to keep your work area clean. You should get into the habit of cleaning your workplace with a disinfectant cleaning spray or sanitizing wipes. Pay particular attention to your desktop, keyboard, telephone and any other objects that are frequently used by your co-workers, such as staplers, copiers and doorknobs.