What to Do to Prevent the Flu
Preventing the flu is the single best way to keep yourself healthy and slow the spread of the flu viruses. Cases of the seasonal flu are on the rise in Illinois, and we're seeing an influx of cases at Northwestern Memorial, so we'd like to get the word out about what you can do to prevent it and, if you do get it, what you can do to stop it from spreading to others.
What You Can Do
- Get the flu vaccines - It's not to late to get the flu vaccine, but it takes two to three weeks to take effect, so we recommend getting it as soon as possible. Most pharmacies have the shots available, as do most primary care physicians' offices.
- If you are sick, stay home and away from others - When you have the flu, you are contagious 24 hours before you show symptoms and may continue to be contagious even after you are feeling better. If you have any flu symptoms, even if they are mild, we recommend that you stay home and away from public places except to receive medical care until you’ve been fever free, without the aid of fever-reducing medications, for at least 24 hours. If you have flu symptoms without a fever, ask your doctor when it’s safe to go back to your normal routine. While you are sick, you should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events and public gatherings.
- Clean your hands frequently - We recommend thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel and wipes as often as possible.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing - When you sneeze or cough, any germs you have can be spread to others. You can reduce the spread of germs by covering your nose and mouth with a tissue any time you sneeze or cough. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your shirt sleeve rather than into your hands.
- Try to avoid close contact with others who are sick - Whenever possible, stay away from people who are sick. If you must care for a sick person, wash your hands frequently.
- Talk with a doctor if you have questions - This is especially important if you are a member of a high-risk group. These groups are different for the seasonal and H1N1 flu strains. Please view the CDC’s Web site for information about high-risk groups.
What Northwestern Memorial Hospital is Doing
- Providing healthcare kiosks and flu information cards
- Offering influenza vaccines - Each year we offer the seasonal influenza vaccine to all employees free of charge. We know vaccination is a first line of defense, so our goal is to vaccinate 100 percent of direct caregivers.
- Educating our staff and the public - We’re working to educate the public and our staff about the importance of prevention and limiting the spread of influenza.
- Keeping sick patients protected - We have protective policies in place for healthcare workers and visitors to wear a mask with any patient who is exhibiting flu-like symptoms, and hospital staff know that they need to follow these policies at all times.
- Promoting clean hands - We work hard to ensure that all healthcare workers and visitors clean their hands frequently, and always when entering and leaving any patient's room. “Clean hands” is one of our biggest messages, both within and outside the hospital.
- Screening our visitors - We are asking all visitors to avoid coming to the hospital if they do not feel well.
- Protecting patients from sick caregivers - If our caregivers get sick with the flu, they must stay home from work for seven days or until they have been fever-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. This will help limit transmission of influenza from staff to patients.