ANNOUNCER: When it's flu season, that's serious business. Especially if you are at high risk.
MARIE KASSAI, RN: The flu can be severe for certain populations primarily because of the complications. For instance, in young children, especially young children with chronic illnesses, if they develop pneumonia that can be life-threatening, and in some cases it has been life-threatening. Same way with the elderly. With the middle-aged person who, say, has no chronic illnesses, the likelihood of severe complications in that particular population is much, much less than the people at risk.
ANNOUNCER: That's why the flu vaccine is recommended for certain people. But everyone can protect him- or herself. First, you'll need a basic understanding how the virus gets around.
MARIE KASSAI, RN: Viral infections are primarily transmitted by droplet infection, which means the virus actually is spread by the sneezing, the coughing, the respiratory secretions from one person to another. People wipe their faces, they blow their noses, they cough into their hands and then they shake hands or touch other areas. The virus is usually spread through the air within three feet, so one person would have to be within three feet of the other one and then basically cough, and then those respiratory secretions, or germs, would be inhaled by the other individual.
ANNOUNCER: A good defense is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls "cough etiquette." Though your mother might cringe when she hears this.
MARIE KASSAI, RN: Coughing into the sleeve of your arm is considered to be much safer than coughing into your hands and then spreading the flu that way. They're actually recommending that if you're going to wipe your nose, especially for children that they wipe it on their sleeves and not on their hands so that they're not transmitting it.
ANNOUNCER: Don't take washing hands for granted. And don't take shortcuts.
MARIE KASSAI, RN: The most important thing that people can do during the flu season is to wash their hands. After you've wet them, you apply the soap. You scrub them ten to fifteen seconds. And a good way to know how long that is is you sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself, and there is also another way that we advise people to do and that is to sing the Oscar Meyer Wiener commercial. And that's about ten to fifteen seconds. Then you rinse the soap well off your hands and dry them. The other way is by using alcohol hand washes. Many people are now carrying that with them. And that can be an alternative to soap and water if, in fact, soap and water is not available.
ANNOUNCER: And if you are using a tissue to intercept a cough or sneeze get rid of it fast.
MARIE KASSAI, RN: And one of the things we've tried to educate people this year about is when you are using tissues make sure that you dispose of them properly.
ANNOUNCER: And although you may look like a hero by coming into work sick, this is probably not a good idea.
MARIE KASSAI, RN: My recommendation would be that office managers, supervisors, people who are doing the staffing for specific businesses, that they be more understanding of the need for people to stay at home. I think they have to look at the consequences of having people come to work sick and the potential loss of work force down the line if in fact they have an outbreak.
ANNOUNCER: Since it's impossible to stay germ-free, it's good to know the steps you can take to ward off the flu.