Raise your hand if you have already gotten the fall cold that’s in circulation. Did you wash that hand? Probably not—or not enough. Fall heralds the beginning of the flu season in the office and on the playground. The influenza virus, aka the flu, is spread person-to-person through airborne contact (coughs and sneezes) and physical contact (close contact and/or touching infected items and then touching your face). Here are some tips and resources to keep you—and your workplace—healthier this flu season.
Wash your hands often
Always wash your hands before eating and after sneezing, coughing, going to the restroom, or shaking hands. French researchers found in 2009 that just one healthcare worker who forgot to wash their hands could infect an entire hospital. Most people do not wash their hands correctly. Here’s how:
- Wet hands
- Use soap and lather for 15 seconds
- Towel or air dry hands
Use a towel to turn off the faucet and open door. If water is not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethyl alcohol (that’s what kills the germs), or anti-microbial towelettes.
Cover your mouth
If you sneeze or cough, do so in a tissue or into your elbow or shirtsleeve. This prevents germs from spreading to other people.
Avoid touching your face
Your nose, mouth, and eyes are easy entry-points for viruses to enter your body from your hands. Avoid touching your face and make sure you always wash your hands before you do.
Disinfect surface areas
Before use, wipe down conference tables, shared keyboards, desks, and airplane armrests and trays with disinfecting wipes.
More than 30,000 people still die in the United States each year from the seasonal flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a Seasonal Influenza (Flu) webpage. Each year the World Health Organization makes recommendations about which flu strains upon which to base flu vaccines. A Food & Drug Administration committee then approves vaccines for the U.S. market.
The CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months of age get a flu vaccine each year. You can get the latest flu vaccine at your doctor’s office or your local pharmacy and many shopping centers, including:
Influenza vaccines do contain the preservative thimerosal, which contains ethylmercury. While thimerosal has been used in most vaccines since the 1930s, its use in childhood vaccines was discontinued in 1999. If you are concerned about thimerosal, you can learn more about it on the CDC website. You can contact your physician to see if there are any influenza vaccines available without thimerosal.
If you get sick, stay home until you have been fever-free without medication for at least 24 hours. Flu symptoms vary but may include fever, cough, chills, sore throat, body aches, and fatigue. Don’t get everybody at work sick too. Drink lots of fluids and rest.
Visit the Center for Disease Control’s website for detailed information on the flu and prevention efforts.