Local expert discusses staying healthy for the holiday season

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Registered nurse Gayla Tripp, Infection Control Coordinator at Saint Francis Medical Center, responded to questions from the Southeast Missourian's health community e-mail.

How worried should people be about throwing a holiday party and spreading sicknesses like the flu and H1N1?

I wouldn't be too worried as long as those who are sick keep their distance. Many travel from far away for the holidays and may be bringing infectious illnesses with them that are not common to the area to which they are traveling.

What can they do to reduce the spread of germs?

Washing hands with soap and water for a minimum of 15 seconds is crucial; alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also effective against flu viruses and other bacteria. When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth with tissue and discard immediately. Cough into a sleeve or elbow if a tissue is not available - unless you'll be holding an infant. You should always disinfect hands after coughing or sneezing. Have sick people stay away if possible.

What are the germy hot spots you notice at parties?

At some parties, many people shake hands or share utensils in a buffet setting. Sometimes a family member will stick a finger into a desert or test food while cooking using the same spoon for testing as cooking. A lot of older people (at-risk group) will kiss children (frequent carriers).

How can people prevent those or steer clear of them?

It is important to remember other infectious diseases besides flu, especially around the holidays, where food can be improperly handled. Many times food is allowed to sit out for long periods of times, and is not warmed properly. Be aware of the risk for foodborne illness if food sits out all day for family to "pick at."

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