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This years winter flu season is now in full swing and is hitting earlier and stronger than anytime in the past decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The flu should not to be taken lightly, as 1 out of every 5 people in the United States today is affected by the flu and an average of 200,000 people are hospitalized each year with flu complications, according to the CDC.
Whether preparing a holiday meal, in the checkout line at the department store, or sitting on the airplane on the way to grandmas house, the flu virus is easily passed from one person to the next. You can catch it anytime a nearby sick person sneezes or coughs in your direction sending a spray of virus-laden droplets your way. It is important to note that flu germs can linger on surfaces for up to eight hours. When you touch a contaminated surface and then put your hands on your eyes, nose, or mouth, your fingers transport the germs straight into your body.
Since no one wants to spend the holidays or winter break sick and in bed, here are three simple preventive steps to ward off the flu:
1.Â The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older. While there are many flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against the viruses that research shows will be most common this year, including H1N1 and H3N2. Log on to Healthmap Vaccine Finder at http://flushot.healthmap.org to locate flu vaccine locations near you.
2.Â Â Wash hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based handrubs. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as germs spread this way. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
3.Â Wear a facemask to reduce the risk of getting sick, or from infecting the people around you if you are sick. Traditional facemasks act only as an air filter and do nothing to neutralize the harmful germs that remain active on the mask itself. But there is a new facemask that actually inactivates flu viruses within five minutes. Medlines BioMask is a major breakthrough in protection that can help protect you and your loved ones from the flu this season.
BioMask is the first-ever FDA-cleared antiviral medical facemask that is shown to inactivate flu viruses, including the H3N2, this years dominant strain, as well as other laboratory tested flu viruses such as imminent pandemic and seasonal strains of influenza (flu) viruses, such as H1N1, avian flu and swine flu.
BioMask should be one of the most important items in any homes medicine cabinet or traveling first aid kit right alongside hand antiseptics, adhesive bandages, alcohol pads, tape and exam gloves, says Lorri A. Downs BSN, MS, RN, CIC, vice president of clinical services, infection prevention and patient safety for Medline. BioMask can help protect patients who are at home and especially at-risk groups such as children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immunities, as well as healthcare workers.
The benefit of the BioMask is that it can provide protection from cross contamination. The outer facing of the mask is frequently touched by the user, who then touches other things or people passing on the flu germs. Since BioMask inactivates 99.99 percent of the tested flu viruses on five minutes' contact time, the risk of spreading the virus is greatly reduced.
Employing these everyday protective measures, including wearing BioMask whileÂ shopping, traveling or with groups of friends and family, can help ensure you and your loved ones stay healthy, so you can enjoy the holidays together, adds Downs.
BioMask, which recently won the Chicago Innovation Award for its potential to protect against the flu, is sold under Medlines CuradÂ® brand name and available at major retail chains, including Walgreens, Walmart, Meijer, Albertsons and Winn-Dixie. Medlines BioMask is also available to medical and healthcare facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes, surgery centers, physician offices and laboratories.Â