Americans were made painfully aware of the panic, fear, disruption of communities, and lack of planning that occurred when the first American victim brought ebola home in 2014. There’s no guarantee that you or your loved ones won’t catch a highly communicable disease such as ebola, influenza, or the common cold, but there is much you can do to prevent, or minimize the effects of these diseases.
Epidemics in history:
In 1919 the Spanish Flu spread quickly and uncontrolled. Over the next 4 years, it killed 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans. Victims often fell ill and died within hours. Interestingly, it often killed young, healthy adults. It was the worst global disaster in recorded history. There was no cure for the Spanish Flu.
Flu is a respiratory viral infection. Today it kills several thousand people in the United States every year. Flu is very serious for young children, older adults, pregnant women, and medically fragile persons of all ages. Viruses mutate: vaccines developed annually for current flu strains may not work if the virus mutates too much before the next flu season. The 2014-2015 flu season vaccine resulted in only a 23% effectiveness.
There are many things we can do to protect ourselves from bacterial and viral illness. Knowledge and preparation are your best defense.
Handwashing is your first defense. Wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, lathering well and rubbing the soap on all fingers and around rings. Use a nail brush at least once a day to scrub your cuticles and under your nails. Rinse and dry well. Paper towels are the best if there is sickness in your home. You don’t really need antibacterial soap or gel unless there is a new baby, sick person, or someone with a compromised immune system. An antibacterial gel should be at least 60% alcohol. Use a good amount and rub into the hands and fingers and around jewelry until dry.
Wash your hands often:
- Before preparing/serving food, setting the table, or emptying the dishwasher.
- Before and after assisting a sick/disabled person.
- Before holding an infant: antibacterial gel is convenient. Insist visitors do this!
- After toileting or changing a baby.
- After loading the washing machine (dirty clothes are germy clothes).
- After cleaning house (you just cleaned up dust, fingerprints, pet hair, mouse droppings, food spatters).
- After playing with and feeding pets.
- After sneezing or coughing, even if you use a tissue. Use gel if convenient. Tissues must be tossed right after each use; don’t leave germ-filled tissues in your pocket or purse.
- After shaking hands (use gel, discretely, from your purse or pocket as soon as you can).
- Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes unnecessarily, as bacteria and viruses can enter the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth. Teach children the importance of this too, and no nose picking!
Use disinfectant spray at work and home to clean desk surfaces, phone, and computer and keypads, door and toilet handles, and other hard surfaces that people touch. We can’t eliminate all germs in our homes, but we can keep surfaces that we touch as germ-free as possible.
How Do We Protect Ourselves During An Outbreak?
During an outbreak of illness, avoid public places as much as possible. Use the antibacterial wipes provided at some stores, or even better, take your own supply. Wipe down your hands first, then the shopping cart handle and area where you put your purse. Use another wipe on your hands when you leave the store. Try to dispose of wipes without touching any other surfaces. You might consider shopping during the least crowded hours and leaving your children at home to limit their exposure. A sneeze can blow a highly infectious mist of infection that can fill a room and contaminate air ventilation systems! Change your home ventilation filters on a regular basis. Wear a medical mask if you are concerned about breathing public air. Masks are not very expensive and can be found on Amazon or at pharmacies. Take your own water bottle instead of using public water fountains. Restaurants usually wipe down tables with a damp cloth which may be loaded with germs; use your own antibacterial wipes on the table before you sit down. The bottoms of purses are loaded with germs; hang it over the back of your chair. Never put your purse on the floor, especially in a public restroom, or you’ll be taking millions of germs home to your family.
It’s very important to stay healthy by getting enough regular sleep, exercise, and eating a healthy diet. Bathe regularly. Treat cuts and scrapes promptly. Take care not to become dehydrated, and remember water is your best choice. Your body needs all the help it can get to fight off exposure to infection.
Last but not least, don’t go out in public or to work if you are ill.