Reducing the Spread of the Flu

The flu is caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. You can take many steps to reduce your risk of contracting the flu or spreading the flu to others.

  • When you are sick, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. If you don't have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your upper sleeve, not your hands. Promptly put tissues into a wastebasket or plastic bag.
  • After coughing or sneezing, always wash your hands with soap and water or clean them with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • If you are sick, stay home so you don't risk spreading the virus to other people.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick if possible.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. You can spread germs picked up from doorknobs, tables, or other surfaces.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Stay healthy by eating well-balanced meals, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.

Hand-washing Tips

Frequent hand-washing can reduce your risk of spreading or contracting bacteria and viruses that cause colds and the flu. You should wash your hands often throughout the day and especially

  • after sneezing or blowing your nose or helping a child blow his nose
  • after being in contact with someone who is ill
  • after using the bathroom
  • before preparing and eating food
  • before treating a cut or wound
  • after changing a diaper or helping a child use the bathroom
  • after handling raw meats, poultry, or eggs

An alcohol-based hand cleaner can also be used if soap and water are not available. Be sure to cover all surfaces of your hands and rub until dry. The alcohol in the cleaner kills germs that cause the flu.

Steps for Proper Hand-washing

  1. Wet your hands with warm water.
  2. Add soap and rub hands together vigorously for 20 seconds. Make sure to scrub all surfaces of the hands and fingers including the fingernails.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. Dry with a clean paper towel.
  5. Turn off the faucet with a paper towel.

Developing a Preparedness Plan

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that individuals and families begin preparing for a possible influenza pandemic. Steps you should take include:

  • Having a two-week supply of food and water in case you cannot get to a store or stores are out of supplies. Examples of food to have on hand include: ready-to-eat canned meats, fish, vegetables, and soups; protein bars; dry cereal; peanut butter and nuts; and crackers.
  • Having an extra supply of your regular prescription drugs.
  • Having nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand including pain relievers, stomach remedies, and cough and cold medicines.
  • Talking about how you would care for family members who became ill.