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How to avoid spreading the flu at WORK

The workplace is a breeding ground for flu-causing germs.

While you may dodge your co-worker’s sneezes, it may be hard to avoid touching the fridge, bathroom door handles, the coffee machine, or the elevator button. 

This season, the flu epidemic has killed more than 50 children, and is responsible for more than nine percent of deaths nationwide.  

Dr Susan Besser of Mercy Medical Center in Maryland offers tips on how to avoid spreading the flu this season.

People can avoid spreading the flu to their coworkers by washing their hands frequently not not coughing on other people

1. Get the flu shot

‘It’s not too late to get the flu shot,’ Dr Besser said. ‘The flu hangs out there until April-ish.’

Although the flu shot won’t provide immunity immediately — it takes about two weeks for flu antibodies to develop — Dr Besser, a primary care provider specializing in family medicine, said this is better than no immunity at all.

The flu shot is 34 percent effective against the H3N2 strain, which has been wreaking havoc this year. 

However, CDC officials are still urging everyone to get the flu shot and say it is not too late as the vaccine is even more effective against H1N1 and B viruses, which are also circulating this season.   

2. Wash your hands and watch out for handles

Staplers, door handles, and phones are hotbeds for germs in office spaces.

Dr Besser urges people to wash their hands with soap and water several times a day to increase their chances of making it through this flu season unscathed.

Flu viruses can live on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours, so people shuold wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water to reduce their chances of infection.

The worst germ hot spots in the office include telephones, water fountains, computer keyboards, bathroom faucets and door handles, and buttons on the water coolers, elevator, vending and coffee machines.

3. Stay home until you’re fever-free

People with flu-like illnesses should stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone before returning to work.

The fever has to be gone without the help of fever-reducing medications. 

‘Many people think they’re fever-free after they’ve [taken pills],’ Dr Besser said. ‘Being fever-free because you took a Tylenol doesn’t mean you’re not contagious.’

The flu is highly infectious, and a recent study revealed the virus can be spread by simply breathing, so if people feel under the weather with a flu-like illness, they should stay home and reduce the risk of infecting others.  

4. Don’t share food

‘When you share food and drinks, you’re sharing other people’s spit,’ Dr Besser explained.

The typical incubation for the flu is one to four days. This means people could have the virus for up to four days before showing any signs or symptoms.  

That’s why it’s important to not get too close to others, share food, or swap spit this season. 

5. Don’t cough on your coworkers, and vice versa

‘Don’t cough or sneeze on your coworkers, and don’t let them cough or sneeze on you,’ Dr Besser said. ‘It’s rude.’

Transmission of the flu can also occur by simply inhaling drops of germ-filled air after a contagious person coughs or sneezes. 

Which is why it’s important for people to expel these germs into the crook of their arm. 

6. If you’re going to wear a mask, make sure it’s not wet

Dr Besser isn’t a believer of wearing masks, but if people decide to wear them they should keep them dry.

‘Once a mask gets wet it’s less efficient,’ she said.

This is because it’s much easier for germs and virus particles to go through.

‘It’s like how dry paper towel works better than wet paper towel,’ she said.