Have you had the flu yet this year? Given my experience with it I highly recommend not getting it if at all possible. Mom used to say “wash your hands” and “don’t put that in your mouth; you don’t know where that’s been!” Sage advice, after all she got us this far. As I pick up the sandwich I just dropped on the floor and eat it I think, even as the cases of flu have stabilized we are not out of the woods yet.
Public work employees are out in the community where they have higher chance of contacting the influenza virus. Workers share things on a daily basis such as vehicles, tools and equipment and are working in close proximity to one another every day. Their activities increase the chance of being exposed to the flu virus.
The virus can survive for 1-2 days on hard non-porous surfaces such as metal and plastic. Think steering wheels, tool handles, door knobs, computer keys. About 15 minutes on dry paper, kleenex, reports, paper money. About 5 minutes on your skin and up to 17 days in mucus on things.
OK so now you’re standing in the middle of the room looking suspiciously at the people around you and trying not to touch anything. Take heart, there is something we can do to greatly reduce our chance of getting sick.
Avoid people who are sick. People are contagious approximately one day before symptoms develop and then for 5-7 days. Children, the petri dishes that they are, can spread the virus for up to two weeks.
Avoid touching surfaces and then touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth.
Above all the best defense is washing your hands. Ideally to mid forearm. In order to decrease the chance of infecting yourself the CDC suggests washing our hands vigorously with warm water and lots of soap for at least 20 seconds or about the time it takes to sing the ABC’s or Happy Birthday twice.
The flu can be spread in three ways. First, direct contact meaning someone coughs or sneezes directly on you. Not good. One droplet can potentially infect a person. One sneeze can produce about 40,000 droplets the smallest of which hang in the air as an aerosol. Secondly, airborne transmissions meaning you breathe in an aerosol or droplets in the air from an infected person who has sneezed or coughed in the recent past. Thirdly, direct contact with the virus on a surface such as a steering wheel, door knob, handshake and then touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth.
Of the three ways the third, direct contact with a contaminated surface, has the highest probability of infecting you. If someone is coughing or sneezing you are not likely to stand near them and most people are good about covering their cough or sneeze. However those coughing, sneezing people still touch things afterword.
So remember. Wash your hands and don’t put that in your mouth, you don’t know where that’s been!by Paul Gladen