March 15, 2019 by John Fernandez
Frequent Handwashing & Other Infection Prevention Tips
The peak of the flu season is not that far off. Have you gotten your flu shot?
National Influenza Vaccination Week runs Dec. 4-10. It’s a national observance to highlight the importance of the flue vaccine for kids and adults. It’s also National Handwashing Awareness Week — and these two observances are most definitely related since handwashing is the best and easiest way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.
Last season, only about 40 percent of Americans who are recommended to get a flu vaccine reported having been vaccinated by the end of November, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC and its public health partners chose December for the observance to remind people that even though the holiday season has begun, it is not too late to get a flu vaccine. (See the video below for more flu prevention tips.)
Video by Irina de Souza
Frequent handwashing is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick and spreading the flu and other illnesses. Soap and water are best for killing viruses on your hands. For the most effective cleansing, wash your hands for 20 seconds. That’s about how long it takes to sing Happy Birthday. If soap and water are unavailable, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will do the trick. Just be sure to use enough to cover the entire hand and rub the solution until it dries, usually about 15 to 20 seconds.
“It’s important now more than ever for adults and children to practice proper hygiene,” said Barbara Russell, R.N., director of Infection Prevention and Control Services for Baptist Hospital. “The most common way that the flu and enteroviruses are spread is by people coughing into their hands and then shaking hands, or by leaving germs on hard surfaces where someone else can get them on their hands.”
The CDC says that current U.S. flu activity is low overall, but “localized influenza outbreaks have been reported and activity is expected to increase in the coming weeks.”
The CDC also says that the flu vaccine is the best defense against getting the flu. Public health officials recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older be vaccinated against influenza, especially pregnant women, young children, people 65 years of age and older, and anyone with underlying health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or a weakened immune system.
A flu vaccine is needed every year because flu viruses are constantly changing. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for the body’s immune system to fully respond and for you to be protected. Every year, the flu causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalization. The flu can also cause thousands, and sometimes tens of thousands, of deaths annually, says the CDC.
In addition to a flu shot, public health officials recommend the 3 C’s: clean, cover, and contain.
- Clean — frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water.
- Cover — cover your cough and sneeze.
- Contain — contain your germs by staying home if you are sick.