Americans have a bad habit of treating influenza dismissively. People often refer to what is actually a minor cold or stomach bug as “a touch of the flu,” but that’s a mistake. Influenza presents a very real danger to human health. It can and does kill, so it should always be treated with caution. Understanding how influenza spreads can help you to protect yourself from this virus.
What Is Influenza?
As the Mayo Clinic explains, influenza is a contagious virus that attacks the respiratory system. It continually evolves and changes, so it’s a challenging disease to fight. Because new strains can be very different immunologically, a vaccine or the antibodies produced as a result of a prior flu episode are not always effective against the circulating version of influenza.
When the flu strikes, it generally hits quickly and involves symptoms that can include a high fever, severe fatigue and weakness, body aches, headache, chills and sweats, nasal congestion, sore throat, and a persistent cough. In healthy people, most cases of the flu will eventually resolve after a few days of misery, but serious complications can arise. Seniors, young children, pregnant women, individuals with compromised immune systems, and people who have chronic health conditions are most likely to experience complications from influenza.
How Influenza Spreads
If you want to avoid catching the flu, understanding how influenza spreads is crucial. Basically, when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes, they release tiny droplets that carry the virus. Anyone nearby can inhale these droplets. Alternately, they may encounter them by touching a contaminated surface. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza spreads easily from person to person over distances of up to six feet. Unfortunately, keeping your distance from those infected with influenza is easier said than done. Although it takes one to four days for most people to begin showing symptoms, a person who has the flu is contagious even before the signs appear. This means that people can pass the flu on before they even realize that they are sick. Adults suffering from the flu remain contagious for up to a week after becoming sick; children can remain contagious for longer.
Protecting Yourself from Influenza
Influenza is a tough and dangerous foe. Thankfully, there are steps that you can take to reduce your risk of catching the flu.
The Flu Shot
Experts encourage everyone who is able to do so to get an annual flu shot. Because influenza is continually changing, vaccine makers predict which strains will produce the greatest threat each year and create a vaccine to try and combat those strains. It’s an imperfect strategy. Vaccine effectiveness is generally between 40 and 60 percent in most years.
Flu-Fighting Health Habits
If you want to dodge influenza and slow its spread, it helps to hone flu-fighting health habits:
- Keep your hands clean. Washing your hands with soap and water or using a quality hand sanitizer can remove any flu germs that you’ve encountered through casual contact with door knobs, handrails, and other surfaces before they get the opportunity to make you sick. It’s also helpful to limit touching your face.
- Cover your mouth properly. Coughing and sneezing can release the droplets that spread germs, so it’s generally a good idea to cover your cough or sneeze. However, you don’t want germs on your hands; it’s too easy to spread them with a touch. Ideally, you should use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of it, and wash your hands immediately afterward. If that’s not possible, sneeze into the crook of your arm to contain any germs.
- Avoid crowds. The influenza virus spreads quickly in crowded places, so avoid large groups whenever possible to reduce your risk.
- Clean your home. Flu-causing germs love to lurk on household items, but cleaning your home effectively can eliminate these troublemakers before they make anyone ill. Scrubbing surfaces by hand is one possibility, but it can be difficult to reach everywhere. Using a germ fogger is a convenient way to supplement your routine. Simply prep the space, place the canister, and walk away while the disinfecting fog cleans everything it touches.
At SafeSpace, we know how influenza spreads and we’re serious about fighting germs. For more than a decade, we’ve been working hard to bring you products that take cleaning and disinfecting to a higher standard. Our SafeSpace Instant Hand Sanitizer is gentle on hands and tough on germs, and our SafeSpace Disinfectant Germ Fogger uses a hospital-grade disinfectant to generate a deodorizing fog that can kill 99 percent of the germs responsible for influenza, colds, and other common ailments. To learn more about our products, contact us today.