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Health Department Notes

Stopping Germs at Home, Work and School

The main way that illnesses like colds and flu are spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. This is called “droplet spread.” This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air and are deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Sometimes germs also can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches his or her own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands. We know that some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs and desks.

Stop the spread of germs by covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

Cleaning your hands often - It is recommended that when you wash your hands with soap and warm water that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. That’s about the same time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.

When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn’t need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.

Remind your children to practice healthy habits, too.

Encourage children to practice healthy habits because germs spread, especially at school. The flu has caused high rates of absenteeism among students and staff in our schools.

Influenza is not the only respiratory infection of concern in schools - nearly 22 million school days are lost each year to the common cold alone. However, when children practice healthy habits, they miss fewer days of school.

The important thing to remember is that an illness like colds and flu can easily be prevented if people make a habit of washing their hands.

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