Germ Etiquette: How to Stop Spreading the Flu

Recent flu reports released by county health departments mirror reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that flu is widespread across the area, state and country.

So, if you're sick, what can you do to curtail the contagion? Even better, if you're not sick what can you do to make sure you stay healthy?

Get A Flu Shot Even if you end up contracting a strand of the flu not covered by this year's vaccine, having the vaccine can minimize your recovery time. Every flu strand is different and every flu season is different. Annually the flu sickens millions, hospitalizes hundreds of thousands and kills thousands ever year, according to the CDC. The vaccine, a weakened form of the virus, is your first line of defense that teaches your body to develop the antibodies it needs to fight the virus if you become infected.

How Long Is Someone Contagious With Flu? In most cases, adults can infect others beginning a day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming sick. In other words, if you've contracted flu you've most likely spread it without knowing it. Other people, like children or those with weakened immune systems, may be contagious for longer than a week.

If you've been sick, it's recommended you stay home until at least 24 hours after the fever has subsided without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

If you're sick and contagious, stay home from work or school and avoid going out in public where you could contaminate others.

How Do You Stop Flu From Spreading? To curtail the spread of flu, it's important to wash your hands often with soap and warm water, building up a good lather for at least 20 to 30 seconds. If you're unable to wash your hands, using an alcohol-based hand rub containing at least 60 percent alcohol is recommended. Hand sanitizers with less alcohol content may not be as effective. It's important to remember that sanitizers, while they will kill the virus, don't remove organic material from your hands like soap and water -- and that washing should be the first line of defense.

If you sneeze or cough, it's recommended you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your inner elbow -- not your hand. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth since germs spread through touching a contaminated object.

What Do I Do If Coworkers Are Sick Coworkers who begin displaying symptoms of the flu should be encouraged to stay home from work and their work area should be sanitized.

At work or school, the CDC recommends implementing nonpharmaceutical interventions such as distancing people from each other (a 3-foot radius is recommended) and cleaning frequently touched surfaces and objects. If people share workspaces, common areas should be cleaned and wiped down with sanitizing wipes.

The CDC recommends getting a flu shot early during flu season. (Published Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018)

What Are The Symptoms? People who have contracted the flu often show the following symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, feeling weak or with body aches, headache, chills, vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms may become more severe in children, the elderly or those with weakened immune systems.

What Can I Take To Fight The Flu Antiviral medications are available to help fight the flu, but they must be administered at a certain time to be effective. Most people will get better without the need for antiviral medication.

- Online: CDC - Stopping the Spread of Germs at School and Work - Online: CDC - Preventive Steps - Online: CDC - Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report