Expect the Unexpected: Lesser known ways you could contract or spread the flu

Lifespan Blog Team

Flu season is back again. While you probably already know that getting your flu vaccination is your best defense against the illness, it is not always a guarantee. Public spaces and inadvertent physical contact with others can spread the flu in no time. Check out a few unsuspected ways you can contract or spread the flu.

Public spaces: The gym, supermarket, school or work

Large gatherings of people enhance a person’s risk of getting sick. Viruses like the cold or flu are more likely to spread around workplaces, schools, or gyms because many people gather there and may engage in physical contact or indirect contact. At the gym and supermarket, use the wipes provided to wipe down equipment or shopping cart before use. If you need to stretch on a mat at the gym, bring one from home or cover the mat provided with a towel. Shower after exercising to help kill any germs you may have picked up.

The ATM

Think about how many times you’ve had to wait in line for an ATM. Maybe two or three people were ahead of you, and a few behind you. That ATM likely goes all day long (at least) without being cleaned or sanitized. The influenza virus can stay on inanimate objects for up to two days. If anyone with the flu used the ATM in the two days before you, you could contract it. Be sure to wash your hands immediately after use, or keep hand sanitizer around.

Your own cell phone

By now you might have heard that cell phones harbor more germs than a toilet seat. If you have the flu or other virus, those germs can stick to your cell phone or other handheld devices, like TV remotes or even keyboards. Wash your hands frequently, and don’t be afraid to wipe your things gently with disinfectant.

If you are already infected, there are a few places you need to avoid in order to prevent spreading to high-risk populations.

Stricter Visitor Flu Policy

Beginning October, 1 Rhode Island Hospital and Hasbro Children’s hospital will put an enhanced respiratory virus prevention program in place for hospital visitors. Every visitor to inpatient adult and pediatric units will be verbally screened through the end of April. 

Learn More

Hospitals

If you have the flu, you should not visit hospitals. Patients there often have weakened immune systems already, which would make them far more susceptible to contracting your flu.

The elderly, children, and pregnant women

These populations are at a higher risk for infection. If you have the flu, avoid contact with people age 65 and older, very young children and pregnant women.

Work or school

Many people believe “powering through” an illness and showing up to work while sick is a virtue. Clinical professionals suggest that it is better for yourself and those around you to stay home. Rest is very important in flu recovery, and going to work or school can not only disrupt your recovery, but likely spread your germs to those around you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you must be fever free for 24 hours without the use of medications before returning to work.

Extra precautions like these might become necessary this flu season. As always remember that frequent hand washing, sanitizing and general awareness of germs is a great way to prevent the spread of illness. You can also get a flu shot at your local pharmacy. If you believe you are infected, call your primary care physician to assess your health needs.  

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