While this year’s flu season may have finally reached its peak, family physician Dr. Ali Ghahary, along with other healthcare professionals and organizations all across Canada, are still urging patients to take necessary precautions to avoid coming down with this common but sometimes deadly illness. The 2017/2018 flu season has been particularly harsh in comparison to other years due to the large spike in confirmed cases of influenza B, and has been responsible for as many as 130 deaths in Canada in recent months. While influenza B generally affects more seniors and younger children, this virus can impact anyone.
When it comes to catching the flu, we often try to avoid it by staying away from individuals we know are sick, but coming down with influenza (or even the common cold, for that matter) isn’t always about whom you come into contact with. It can also about what you come into contact with.
According to Dr. Chris Mason, a geneticist with Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, avoiding vs. catching the flu also comes down to those hot-spot areas where virus and bacteria-containing microbes might be hiding. For example, surfaces that are commonly touched such as door handles, elevator buttons, bathroom or kitchen sink taps, and desks. Viruses can live on these surfaces for as long as an entire day, which means if you touch any of these contaminated surfaces and then go to touch your face – such as your nose, eyes or mouth – you are at a high risk of developing influenza. But there are also other areas you might not even think twice about where these microbes can hide, and they’re often in plain sight.
Break rooms, for example, are where you go to get a cup of coffee or take your lunch break – but they’re also riddled in germs. These are rooms where people often touch a lot of things. Many break rooms also come equipped with tiny kitchens, and kitchens often equal moisture. As a result of this moisture, bacteria can also grow. Things like fabric covered chairs and tablecloths are also a breeding ground for viruses and germs to multiply, also making you susceptible of coming down with a bug. Computer keyboards are also another common problem for working individuals, as computers are often shared.
So just how do you avoid these germs? The first thing Dr. Ali Ghahary suggests if you’re already sick is to stay home. Whenever you’re ill with the flu it’s important that you not overexert yourself in any way and make sure you get plenty of rest. Lack of rest will only delay your body’s healing process. You also put yourself at risk of your symptoms worsening, or coming down with back-to-back flu viruses. To avoid getting sick it’s also a good idea to have disinfectant/anti-bacterial wipes on hand, even if you’re not sick. You can use them to wipe down surfaces, door handles and keyboards to kill any of the festering bacteria. In fact, research has shown that using disinfecting wipes reduce bacteria by as much as 90%, which means your risk of developing the flu also significantly decreases.