Stopping the Spread of Germs
How Germs Spread
Illnesses like the flu (influenza) and colds are caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The main way the viruses 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 2 hours or longer on surfaces like tables, doorknobs and desks.
How to Stop the Spread of Germs
Take care to:
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough
- Clean your hands often
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Stay home when you are sick and check with a healthcare provider when needed
- Practice other good health habits.
- Remind your children to practice healthy habits, too
- Cover 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.
The "Happy Birthday" song helps keep your hands clean?
Not exactly. Yet we recommend 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! Rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces. It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs.
Alcohol-Based Hand Wipes and Gel Sanitizers Work Too
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.*
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.
Common symptoms of the flu include:
*Source: FDA/CFSAN Food Safety A to Z Reference Guide, September 2001: Handwashing.
- fever (usually high)
- extreme tiredness
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- muscle aches, and
- nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, (much more common among children than adults).