The Global Hygiene Council, a group of leading health and hygiene experts from around the world, convened in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss how proper hygiene plays a critical role in preventing the spread of illness and improving health around the world. In particular, the Council focused on topics such as the emergence of antibiotic resistance, the re-emergence of illness-causing pathogens, and recent global reactions to pandemics, such as H1N1. The meeting, held in Atlanta, coincided with cold and flu season's peak, when typically half of all flu cases are reported in the U.S.(1)
While the world is currently considered to be in a "post-pandemic" period following the 2009 outbreak of H1N1, the first global influenza pandemic in 40 years,(2) it is estimated that 5 percent 20 percent of Americans will still contract the flu.(3) And while another pandemic is somewhat unlikely, flu viruses are constantly changing, difficult to predict and recent data suggests that flu incidence amongst children (pediatrics) has been higher than the last five flu seasons.(4) Therefore, hygiene experts warn that the best course of action is to take preventive measures.
Hygiene Council members, pediatrician Dr. Laura Jana and professor John Oxford, chairman of the Hygiene Council and professor of virology at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, recommend these three simple steps to keep your family protected:
1. Get vaccinated: The yearly flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Everyone six months of age and older should get vaccinated.(5)
2. Wash your hands: Wash your hands often with soap and water. When someone in your home is sick, hand washing is one of the best ways to break the chain of infection.
3. Disinfect surfaces: A recent study suggests that more than 31 percent of general influenza infections may have been contracted through a contaminated surface.(6) Remember to regularly disinfect countertops and other frequently touched surfaces doorknobs, faucets because the flu virus can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours. Disinfectant products help stop the spread of germs. For more information about surface disinfection, visit: http://www.cdc.gov/ounceofprevention/
If you do happen to get the flu, CDC recommends taking anti-viral drugs as prescribed by a doctor.(7) Drugs can treat your illness. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications.
The Hygiene Council is comprised of 15 leading global experts in the field of microbiology, virology, infectious diseases, immunology and public health who formulate recommendations on how the public can improve hygiene in their home and community to prevent the spread of infections. The annual two day meeting, "Hygiene: Changing Behavior-Protecting Health," was held Feb. 8-9, 2011. The Hygiene Council is funded by an educational grant from Reckitt Benckiser, makers of Lysol brand products. For more information, visit www.hygienecouncil.com
(1) http://cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm (2) http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/notes/briefing_20100810/en/index.html (3) http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/disease.htm (4) SDI FAN, © 2010 (based on average total weekly incidents of affected population for cough, cold, and flu-like illness)(5) http://www.flu.gov/individualfamily/vaccination/index.html#TheSeasonalFluVaccine (6) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Seasonal and 2010 H1N1 Flu: A Guide for Parents(7) http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm