From the very beginning of the H1N1 pandemic, experts have given specific ways to avoid becoming sick with this virus.  Of course, hopes are always placed that the vaccine will be the principal way to stay well.  Although it is an important piece of the prevention puzzle, personal accountability is a critical part of it, as well.

As we know, hand hygiene is the best way to safeguard against illness.  Responsible persons in schools, homes, and industrial sectors understand the importance of preventing the spread of disease.  Being conscious of the surfaces and the contaminants on them is one of the best things we can do. (Please see our article, Germ City, U.S.A.).  Remember to wash you hands often, or use hand sanitizer.  It’s hard to do, but we should never touch our nose, eyes, or mouth with our hands.  It is best to use a clean tissue.

Thousands of patients die in hospitals annually from nosocomial infections, which are acquired while being treated in the hospital.  These infections can be preventable when closer attention to hand hygiene and infection control guidelines are met by hospitals.  Hospitals and nursing homes should have responsible hand washing etiquette and good cross contamination awareness programs.  Patients should never hesitate to ask their nurse or caregiver to wash their hands, if they feel it is necessary.

Foodborne illness is another way that we can become ill because of lack of hand cleanliness. (Have you ever watched someone prepare food, i.e., pizza, without gloves, and then handle money?) According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 76 million persons contact foodborne illness yearly.  Eighty percent of the illnesses come from commercial or institutionally prepared foods; the other 20% from foods prepared in the home.  Hands should be washed very frequently while preparing food.  Two magnets for bacteria in the kitchen are the dishrag or sponge, and cutting boards.

Keeping yourself healthy during this winter is in your hands.  From hand hygiene to getting the vaccine, you must also stay out of crowds when at all possible, pay attention to things you are touching/sharing, eat healthy, and get enough exercise.