Given the concerns about potentially deadly stains of avian bird flu and swine flu virus, here are some common sense precautions that you can take that may prevent you from catching a flu bug.
The first group of preventative measures is derived from advice the Centers For Disease Control. These actions are the same that you would use to avoid catching a cold or any virus. With viruses, the best defense is to treat everything as if it were contaminated.
If you follow these simple precautions, you may avoid catching the flu. In the case of a flu epidemic or a deadly pandemic flu situation, it may save your life.
- When you sneeze and cough, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue. Do not re-use the tissue. Throw it in the trash after using it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you sneeze or cough. Alcohol-based hand cleaners (such as hand wipes) and hand sanitizers can be effective.
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes, especially after you have been in public or have handled door knobs or handles in public places.
- Monitor and follow public health advice, such as avoiding crowds, subways and buses.
- Develop a family emergency plan. Be prepared to deal with health emergencies by keeping a supply of cold and flu medication and other medical supplies in your home.
- Keep a supply of food in your home so that you do not have to go shopping very often.
We have some additional advice to take this a step further.
- Keep a stock of face masks in your home, in your car and in your office. The cheap paper masks do not work very well. You will need at least a NIOSH N95 mask. If you can find masks rated N99 or N100, that would be better. The masks will have that certification stamped on the mask. You can find N95 masks at Home Depot, Lowes or any major hardware store, but they may be difficult to find once an outbreak occurs. Plan ahead. We keep five N95 masks in a zipped plastic bag in each of our vehicles and in desk drawers in out offices. if you are going to wear a mask, it must cover your mouth and nose.
- If you must use public transportation or work in a building with lots of human traffic, avoid touching door handles, especially in rest rooms. When you go to the washroom, use a paper towel or your elbow to open the door. Pretend that everything you touch is infected, because you never know which items were touched by an infected person.
- We cannot stress the part about washing your hands strongly enough. Most viruses are passed either by close contact with a person who coughs or sneezes, or by touching an infected object. Almost everyone frequently touched their eyes, nose or mouth. The skin tissue in these areas is easily penetrated by viruses. Some experts recommend washing your hands for 30 seconds once every 15 minutes.
- Do not go out to restaurants if you can avoid it. You never know who last sat in your booth or chair, or who is preparing your food and might be infected.
- Avoid shaking hands or touching other people in public places.