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Do you cough without covering your mouth while standing in the lunch line? Or sneeze loudly into the air when squeezed onto the morning bus? Nearly all Americans (96 percent) have seen you do things like this -- and a shocking three-quarters (77 percent) say they are guilty themselves.
Even with heightened concerns during this year's flu season, Americans admit that sleeves are a fine substitute for tissues: one in four wipes their nose on them. One in 10 is even more gross: skipping sleeves altogether in favor of hands to wipe their nose and then extending for a handshake or reaching for a door handle.
So, what are we doing about it? In a recent survey by the Water Quality and Health Council, Americans come clean -- we're not doing much. Despite constant warnings from health officials and a recent Risk Analysis study showing a 31 percent chance of infection through hand contact with contaminated surfaces, few Americans frequently clean the public surfaces they use. At the same time, not many have faith that others are cleaning them either:
• Just 1 in 10 believes surfaces at the mall or on public transit are disinfected regularly;
• Fewer than half think restaurant staff is disinfecting tables;
• Less than one-third feel confident that school surfaces are properly sterilized.
Regardless of this, just 1 in 10 is inclined to do the job themselves. In fact, as opposed to wiping down the surfaces they come in contact with, a whopping 42 percent of Americans are opting to avoid public spaces altogether.
But staying home isn't the answer. Taking control of your environment is. "Knowing that flu viruses can live on inanimate surfaces for hours or even days should motivate people to take personal responsibility to protect themselves," said Dr. Chris Wiant, Water Quality & Health Council chairman. "This means disinfecting surfaces when feasible, using disinfecting wipes or chlorine bleach -- especially at home and at work -- as well as washing your hands and practicing good personal hygiene habits. Contacting school administrators, office managers and even health club managers will help you understand their cleaning and disinfecting protocol and how you can better safeguard against the flu."
To help people prevent the spread of H1N1, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping surfaces clean by wiping them down with a disinfectant according to the directions on the product label. In addition to cleaning surfaces, the CDC advises:
•Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder; not into your hands.
•Washing your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
•Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
•If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.
For more information on how to prevent the spread of H1N1 through surface disinfection, visit www.fluandhealth.com
An online omnibus survey was conducted among a census representative sample of 1,037 Americans 18+ using the field services of Opinion Research Corporation. Interviewing for this survey was completed on September 28-29, 2009, and has a margin of error +/-3.1% at the 95% confidence level.
The Water Quality & Health Council (WQHC) is a body of independent scientific experts, health professionals and consumer advocates who serve as advisors to the Chlorine Chemistry Division of the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association.