Annual Flu Vaccination, Hand Hygiene and Appropriate Treatment Help Decrease Spread of Infection

Experts at the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) influenza/pneumococcal news conference held recently reinforced the important message of prevention this upcoming cold and flu season. The news conference highlighted the importance of flu prevention, and focused, among other things, on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) "3 Actions to Fight the Flu."

The "Take 3" approach recommends the following:(1)
- Take the time to get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available in your community,
- Stop germs with everyday preventive actions, including hand hygiene, and
- Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

"Influenza affects 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population and hospitalizes more than 200,000 people each year," said Dr. William Schaffner, NFID medical director and moderator of the 2015 influenza/pneumococcal news conference. "In addition to an annual flu vaccine, everyday hand hygiene is an important step to help reduce the spread of infections that cause illness."

"Hand hygiene protects public health and saves lives," notes Jim Arbogast, PhD, GOJO vice president of hygiene sciences and public health advancements. "It is important to remember to wash with soap and water and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer at key moments throughout the day, every day, not only during winter-germ season." 

Flu researchers reported that people touched their faces an average of 3.6 times per hour, and common objects an average of 3.3 times per hour.(2) Handwashing or hand sanitizing before and after preparing food, before eating, before and after caring for someone that is ill, after sneezing or coughing, after using the bathroom and after touching anything that has been touched by many people, like a grocery cart handle, a subway handrail or an elevator button, is important in keeping you and your family healthy. According to the CDC, the flu spreads easily from person to person. The droplets from a sick person's nose and mouth can travel up to six feet and can land in noses and mouths of people nearby.(3)

Practicing healthy habits, such as hand hygiene, can help to reduce the risk of illness and infection. In fact, two measures -- using hand sanitizer and hand hygiene education -- led to a 20 percent reduction in absenteeism in a workplace setting(4) and 50 percent reduction in schools.(5) These results point to the attention that must be paid to good hand hygiene throughout the day, at home, at work, at school and especially in public areas where people congregate.

GOJO recommends the following to minimize the spread of illness-causing germs:
- Schools and businesses can start by making sure all hand soap dispensers are in good working order with sealed refills available.
- Businesses and families can establish norms and etiquette for good hand hygiene. Make hand sanitizers easily accessible and available in areas where people are together so hands can be sanitized after sneezing, coughing and at mealtimes.
- Businesses can place hand sanitizer dispensers near restroom exits to help prompt the 1-4 people who don't typically wash their hands after using the restroom.(6) Touch-free dispensers, in fact, have been shown to increase use by nearly 20 percent.(7)
- Individuals can carry either portable hand sanitizing wipes or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for use when soap and water are not available or practical.

The news conference was sponsored by NFID and is supported in part by GOJO, through an unrestricted educational grant. GOJO provides hand hygiene information and education at www.gojo.com/handhygienehub and www.purell.com/coldandflu.

References:

1. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.html
2. http://www.livescience.com/25086-stop-touching-yourself-flu-researchers-say.html
3. Do Your Part to Slow the Spread of Flu Fact Sheet, www.cdc.gov/info
4. FedEx Outcome Study Executive Update: Interim Report, July 27, 2004, (unpublished) GOJO Industries, Inc., 90.3% confidence interval.
5. Ginan M, McGuckin M, and Ali Y. 2002. "The effect of a comprehensive handwashing program on absenteeism in elementary schools." American Journal of Infection Control 30: 217-220.
6. September 2007. Observational Study Sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology and the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA).
7. Larson E, Albrect S, O'Keefe M., "Hand Hygiene Behavior in a Pediatric Emergency Department and a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit: Comparison of Use of 2 Dispenser Systems," American Journal of Critical Care, Volume 14, Number 14, July 2005, pp. 304-312

Source: GOJO Industries

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