Simple steps can help protect you from flu and colds

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

We haven't heard anything official for our area, but Douglas County has 27 confirmed cases of influenza and there has been no shortage here of people staying home from work or school because of the "flu."

That number of confirmed cases is well above the normal five or fewer cases normally reported this time of year.

It's not too late to get your influenza shot, since it lasts about three months, peaking around February or March.

Contact your health care provider or local health department for more information about getting a flu shot.

But that isn't the only thing you can do to protect yourself against the flu, colds and other maladies this winter.

The Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department is observing National Handwashing Awareness Week Dec. 2-8.

"By frequently washing your hands, you wash away germs that you have picked up from other people, contaminated surfaces, or from animals and animal waste," said Bev Powers, SWPHD nurse "Practicing the four principles of Hand Awareness behaviors developed by Dr. Will Sawyer will help you stay healthy this winter.," she said.

Those principles:

* Wash your hands when they are dirty and before eating.

* Do not cough into your hands.

* Do not sneeze into your hands.

* Above all, do not put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth.

What's the correct way to wash your hands?

* Wet hands with warm water and use soap.

* Rub your hands together, making sure to scrub all areas.

* Rub for a minimum of 15 seconds or sing "Happy Birthday

* Rinse thoroughly, then dry hands on a clean towel.

* Turn faucet off with the towel, not hands, to prevent recontamination.

The simple action of washing your hands can make a difference in your home and community, Powers noted. Several diseases are transferred through poor handwashing and then touching our eyes, nose or mouth for easy transfer of germs.

You can arrange handwashing demonstrations for schools or groups by calling Denise Ringenberg at education@swhealth.ne.gov or call (308) 345-4223. You can also visit the office at 404 W. 10th, one block north of Arby's in McCook, or follow SWNPHD on Facebook and Twitter.

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