As we experience one of the worst flu seasons in Australia, here are four easy ways we can all help prevent the spread of infections amongst our family, friends and communities:
Clean hands don’t spread disease. When your hands are dirty, wash them with soap and warm water for 10 to 15 seconds, before rinsing and drying them thoroughly with a clean towel. If your hands are visibly clean, even though you may have touched something dirty, you can use an antiseptic hand sanitiser (also called handrub or handgel) to ensure that they cannot spread disease. Rub the sanitiser all over your hands until they are dry.
Clean your hands after coughing, sneezing, touching things that are dirty, using a toilet, smoking, touching animals, changing an infant or adult nappy, and after touching blood or other body substances. Always clean your hands before cooking, eating and feeding others.
Used needles can harm or infect other people. They should be disposed of in a specially designed sharps container, not into a rubbish bin. When using a needle, make sure you have the sharps container next to you first. Then place the needle into the container immediately after use. Sharps containers must always be kept out of reach of children. Ask your nurse, carer, doctor or your local council where you can get one.
Disposable items soiled with blood or other body substances should be placed into a plastic bag, tied off and put into a rubbish bin immediately. If you think the bag might leak, place that bag into another one.
When you are in the early stages of an illness, and have symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, vomiting or diarrhoea; you can easily spread your infection. The viruses that cause colds and flu can travel a metre or more after you cough or sneeze, and bacteria or viruses that cause diarrhoea can easily be spread from your hands to your surrounding environment, and then to other people.
To prevent this spread, it’s important to cover your mouth or nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, before discarding the tissue in a bin, and cleaning your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow instead of your hands.
If you have an illness that is causing vomiting or diarrhoea, you may need to ask other household members to use another toilet. If this is not possible, you will need to clean your toilet and bathroom with detergent and then bleach after each use. This will prevent the spread of your disease to other family members.
Even as adults, we can be vaccinated against many preventable diseases. Check with your doctor about what vaccinations you may need. Vaccines can protect you against influenza, meningitis, pneumonia, whooping cough (also known as pertussis), tetanus, measles and chickenpox, among others. If your vaccinations are current, then you are not only protecting yourself, but also your community from infection.
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