During my second year of graduate school، I moved in with my sister's family to save money. 'You must get the flu shot if you are going to live here،' my sister declared، as the Daily Mail said. Both of my nieces were under the age of 5، putting them at a high risk of flu complications; therefore، it was critical that I do my part in، first، getting vaccinated to minimize my risk of getting the flu، and second، not passing the flu to a vulnerable population. A key part of this was، and still is، washing my hands regularly. This is serious business. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 900،000 people were hospitalized from the flu last season and more than 80،000 people died in the US. As the flu season approaches، it's important to marshal all our defenses against influenza. As someone who has a history of fainting after shots، including an experience that resulted in multiple stitches just shy of my temple، I understand high anxiety when it comes to needles. But in the evenings when my 4-year-old niece is looking at the intriguing images within my microbiology textbook and asks with each turn of page، 'Auntie Chelle، what's that?' I couldn't fathom putting her at a higher risk of the flu or any sickness by not getting vaccinated or not washing my hands regularly. The flu virus spreads by droplets made from a cough، sneeze or talk of people who are infected. These droplets can land within the mouths، lungs or noses of people up to 6 feet away. Heavily populated places، such as schools or airports، could increase the transmission of the virus and put people at higher risk of getting the flu. It's also possible to get the flu by touching a surface، such as chairs، tables or door handles that has flu virus on it and then touching your own mucous membranes in your mouth، nose or eyes. A behavioral study of medical students at the University of New South Wales found that of the 26 participants، students touched their face an average of 23 times per hour and 44 percent of the time it was in contact with a mucous membrane.
With flu season ahead of us and also our holiday travels، do we really stand a chance of preventing the spread of the flu and other germs by keeping our hands clean? Yes، but it takes some work.