U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Bianca Raleigh, 31st Medical Operations Squadron allergy and immunizations noncommissioned officer in charge, administers a patient’s shot March 23, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Areca T. Wilson/Released)

Flu season is upon us, and many healthcare facilities are urging you to start preparing now with vaccines. Ironically, one of the places you need to be careful is at the doctor’s office or healthcare clinic.

The number of people in and out of clinics this time of year increases the chance that someone will leave behind a harmful pathogen. Being near people who may already have the flu can put you at risk. Reduce this risk by following some simple instructions from healthcare cleaning experts.

“Healthcare-acquired infections can be a threat to everyone, especially the elderly and young children,” said Steve Zimmerman, director of healthcare services for ServiceMaster Clean, a cleaning and janitorial service provider. “Most facilities do a good job of sanitizing their waiting areas, but sick people can spread their illnesses through the touch of a door, magazine or pen, leaving you vulnerable to pick up germs you can’t see.”

The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 9 million to 35 million people will get the flu each year, 140,000 to 710,000 will be hospitalized because of it, and 12,000 to 56,000 will die from the illness. The CDC recommends a vaccination each year for those six months of age and older.

While the vaccine may help protect you from the flu, cleaning experts urge everyone to avoid high-touch areas as much as possible. In a healthcare setting, Zimmerman defines high-touch surfaces as anything that multiple people will likely touch during their visit.

Some high-touch surfaces are hard to avoid, such as door handles and chair armrests. That’s why it’s wise to wash hands often and use hand sanitizer when necessary. But there are other high-touch areas you can avoid, such as:

* Magazines. These are nearly impossible to disinfect once they have been contaminated. Don’t pick them up while you’re waiting.
* Toys. Bring your own toys to help prevent your child from picking up an illness from another child.
* Restrooms. They can harbor lots of pathogens unless cleaned often. If you must go, limit touching surfaces in the restroom, wash your hands thoroughly and use hand sanitizer if it’s available.
* Ink pens. Think about how many hands touch the ink pens in facilities. Whether signing in or filling out paperwork, bring your own and eliminate the possibility of sharing germs.
* Coffee urns. For many Americans, coffee is a must. If you pick up a coffee pot or stop at your favorite coffee shop, take hand sanitizer with you and use immediately after you pour a cup.

Zimmerman also points out that if you schedule visits for the early morning, you are less likely to contract the germs that typically accumulate, since cleaning crews often perform a deep clean at the end of each day. – BPT

Docs: Flu shot also thwarts pneumonia
The return of flu season reminds us that it’s time to get our shots, but the folks
at Northwell Health GoHealth Urgent Care note that it can also prevent worse ailments.

Dr. Neal Shipley from Northwell Health-GoHealth Urgent Care points to a 2015 study that found those who have been vaccinated against the flu are 57 percent less likely to catch pneumonia.

“That’s a pretty serious statistic given that many of those who are unfortunate enough to catch pneumonia typically end up in the hospital for four to five days with intravenous antibiotics and a four-week-long recovery period,” he said. “We know you don’t have time for that.”

The study was conducted by researchers from the Etiology of Pneumonia in the Community (EPIC) in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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