Protecting Yourself in the Midst of an Influenza Outbreak

The recent flu crisis associated with the spread of the H1N1 influenza virus has prompted many people to take extra precautions to protect themselves from infection, particularly in areas where cases of the virus have been confirmed. The influenza A (H1N1) virus is being carefully monitored by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which continues to publish up to date information to help educate the public and minimize the spread of the virus.

Preventing transmission from person to person to the degree possible is an overreaching goal in controlling the spread of the H1N1 virus as well as other illnesses. The influenza virus is believed to be spread through respiratory drops from an infected person, which are often released through coughing and sneezing. Another person can contract the virus when these droplets enter his or her nose or mouth, or by touching a surface that has been contaminated and then touching the eyes, nose or mouth. While we cannot prevent the virus with 100% certainty, here are a few of the recommendations the CDC has published on its website for helping reduce the chance that you will contract the virus:

Wash your hands with soap for 15-20 seconds often. Practice a healthy lifestyle including getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, being physically active and avoiding stress. Do not touch your nose, eyes or mouth. Avoid close contact with those who are ill. Consider wearing an FDA approved facemask when entering crowded situations in areas where the virus has been confirmed. Consider using an N95 or higher respirator when close contact with an infected person is necessary.

Many of the precautions that are recommended to reduce the chance of contracting influenza viruses are the same as the recommendations for preventing any contagious illness. The disposable medical supplies such as facemasks and respirators recommended by the CDC are widely available to consumers. Surgical masks are designed to help reduce the chance of spreading an infection, while N95 respirators are designed to help prevent the wearer from contracting the virus. When it is necessary to be around or take care of a person who is infected with the influenza virus, the CDC recommends considering wearing an N95 respirator to reduce your chance of contracting the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control has provided a plethora of information to help the public take appropriate actions regarding the flu crisis. Please visit the CDC website for the most up to date information.