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Harvard Commentaries
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Stopping the Spread of Germs at Work


June 30, 2014

Workplace Health
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Take Action Now
Stopping the Spread of Germs at Work
Stopping the Spread of Germs at Work
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Here's what you can do to help prevent the spread of germs to yourself and your co-workers.
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InteliHealth
2010-09-15
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2012-09-15

Center for Disease Control logo

Stopping the Spread of Germs at Work

 

How germs spread
 
Illnesses like the flu (influenza) and colds are caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. The flu and colds usually spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
 
How to help stop the spread of germs
 

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. 

following good health habits also helps.

Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough.
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.

 

Clean your hands often.

Handwashing is like a "do-it-yourself" vaccine. It involves five simple and effective steps: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry. These will help reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy. Regular handwashing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
When soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
 
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.

Stay home when you are sick and check with a health care provider when needed.

When you are sick or have flu symptoms, stay home, get plenty of rest, and check with a health care provider as needed. Your employer may need a doctor's note for an excused absence. Remember: Keeping your distance from others may protect them from getting sick. 

Clean and disinfect surfaces or objects.

Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu can help slow the spread of influenza.

 

 

 

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