With flu ramping up, hand washing is more important than ever
The flu season is ramping up across the country, and South Carolina is no exception.
For the fourth consecutive week, flu activity was widespread throughout the state, according to the most recent report from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. More than 4,800 positive tests were reported from 43 counties between Dec. 31 and Jan. 6.
The total number of confirmed flu cases increased by 1,395, or 40 percent, compared to the week before, according to the department. So far this flu season, the virus has contributed to the deaths of six South Carolinians.
Fortunately, there are simple steps people can take to limit their chances of becoming sick with the flu, says Angela Harris, infection control manager at Tidelands Health. One, of course, is to receive the flu vaccine. The second is even simpler: Practice proper hand-washing techniques.
Washing your hands properly is one of the most effective ways to avoid getting sick, Harris says. That's true any time of year, but it becomes even more important during flu season, when colder weather can keep people cooped up together inside for longer periods of time, making it even easier for an already highly infectious virus to spread.
"We cannot emphasize enough how important hand washing is," Harris says. "We know that people who properly wash their hands stand a significantly better chance of avoiding illness than those who don't."
The key, Harris says, is to make sure you are using the correct technique and washing your hands on a regular basis.
Hands should be washed:
- Before, during and after food preparation
- Before eating
- Before and after caring for a sick individual
- Before and after treating a wound or cut
- After using the toilet or changing diapers
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching an animal or animal waste
- After touching garbage
So what’s the proper hand-washing technique? Harris suggests people follow the CDC’s five-step approach:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water
- Lather your hands thoroughly and completely by rubbing them together with the soap
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
It really is as simple as that, Harris says. And just a few minutes spent washing your hands each day can prevent days of misery if you become sick.
“Your diligence helps others, too,” she says. “Washing your hands properly can not only help you avoid getting sick but can also help your family, friends and coworkers stay healthy.”