The flu season is upon us once again. This year, Center of Disease Control (CDC) is urging the public to take 3 actions. Their “Take 3” Actions To Fight The Flu include:
Take the time to get a flu vaccine
Take everyday preventive action to stop the spread of germs
Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them
Aside from vaccination, the best method to avoid the spread of seasonal flu is to adopt a rigorous hand hygiene approach, with proper hand washing being essential, according to the CDC. However, the frequency and quality of hand washing among the general population is poor.
How the flu is spread
Influenza is a serious infection which affects more than 60 million individuals in the US every year. It’s spread from person to person via droplets when coughing or sneezing and by touching objects and surfaces that are contaminated with the virus (i.e. doorknobs and telephones) and then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. The influenza virus may persist for hours in dried mucus and be transmitted by direct contact. It is spread very easily indoors, which is why it is so prevalent in the winter months in northern countries, when people spend more time together inside. Watch this video that demonstrates how quickly germs can spread.
Source: Saskatoon Health
Improper Hand Washing
Separate studies from around the world show that after visiting the washroom only 70% of people wash their hands, with only 30% of people actually using soap; the remaining 40% use water alone. The sad reality is, people do not wash their hands frequently or adequately enough. In fact, the average person washes their hands for only around 10 seconds which at best will remove about 90% of germs. The problem is the remaining bacteria will grow and can double in number in less than 20 minutes and in 80 minutes can be back to the number prior to washing.
In addition to these in adequate hand washing habits, most people also do not use the correct technique for washing hands and indeed many; critical parts of the hands are missed during normal hand washing, even when soap is used. The image below shows the most frequently missed parts of the hands when the correct hand washing technique is not followed.
Hand Hygiene 101
As can be seen, finger-tips in particular are the most frequently missed areas, yet these are the parts of our hands that we most use for contact with surfaces and other people. Therefore, a significant contribution to the improvement in hand washing performance is to adopt the following simple 6-step hand washing technique, in combination with soap and fresh running water.
Workplace Infection Prevention
Every year, influenza, or the flu affects not just our health, but often the bottom line for many businesses. Regardless if an employer is large or small, the flu can be a big disruption and its true financial impact may be more than you think.
Workplaces and public facilities where people interact in close proximity are at a higher risk for the spread of germs. According to one recent workplace microbial survey, "desk top surfaces, computer keyboards, mouse and telephone receivers are more contaminated than restroom toilet seats."
Studies show that for every employee who comes to work sick, up to 18% of their colleagues will become infected as a result. Since our hands are responsible for the spread of 80% of common infectious diseases, effective hand hygiene continues to be universally recognized as the smartest, most cost effective means of infection control in the workplace.
Making Hand Hygiene Contagious
For many organizations, implementing and maintaining appropriate hand hygiene practices is a daily challenge, because of inconsistent hand hygiene habits across the population.
Studies show that organizations can reduce the risk of spreading germs by adopting good hand hygiene practices, providing adequate hand washing facilities and promoting the use of a hand sanitizer applied regularly to clean, dry hands to compliment routine hand washing.
There are also simple, practical steps that employers can take as part of their flu season procedures, such as providing the workforce with information on flu vaccination clinics and improving cleaning procedures in the workplace.
Ultimately, businesses need to focus on health management and infection prevention rather than absence management. Even a modest reduction in colds and flu would have a significant impact on reducing costs to the healthcare system and impact on the economy.
Global Hand Washing Day
A great reason to kick-start a proper hand hygiene program in the workplace, is the approaching Global Hand Washing Day on October 15th. Take part by downloading free workplace posters and having employees make a pledge to practice proper hand washing.
Additional Flu Prevention Tips
Other flu precautions include good health habits like covering your mouth when coughing. To help battle the flu, here are five more quick tips from DebMed based on information from the CDC and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
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