We’re currently in one of the widespread flu seasons on record, and the dominant flu strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control, is one of the nastiest.
The H3N2 strain is able to “change more quickly to get around the human body’s immune system,” explains Lena H. Sun in the Washington Post.
The flu is dangerous even if you’re a young, healthy person, and is potentially deadly to those with compromised immune systems, the elderly and children.
If you’re already a little wary about the germs on your work keyboard, you might want to step up your precautions during the season. Here’s how to minimize your risk of getting sick.
Germs Are Everywhere, Even Your Office
Your office is likely already full of germs. The air conditioning/heating vents circulate microbes and bacteria, creating a closed microbiome in every office park. When you’re sitting there for hours every day, you’re breathing in and out a shocking number of these microbes, and there’s not much you can do about that.
But you can control how you interact with spaces in your office. Avoid transmitting germs by being more conscientious of your movements. Avoid touching your hands to your face (including your eyes, mouth and nose) and clean those surfaces, from your phone to the communal coffee pot.
Stop Cross-Contamination Before You Get Sick
While nobody likes getting sick, spreading illness, whether it’s the flu, a cold, or some other ailment, is easy enough. Flu viruses can live for anywhere from 24-72 hours on hard surfaces, and those are easy to clean at work or at home.
You can swab down any work stations, doorknobs, microwave and fridge handles with simple cleaning products, and wipe down hard surfaces again at the end or beginning of the day.
And of course, wash your hands early and often to avoid picking up any surface germs. In the air, it’s harder to avoid germs once people start coughing, but it’s a smart idea to clean like this before you start to feel sick, since the flu is contagious even before symptoms start.
If You’re Sick, Stop the Spread
Number one: If you’re sick, stay home.
If you can, avoid the office when you start to get sick. Even if you choose to work from home and not take a sick day, it’s the best way to make sure you’re not Patient Zero in the boardroom.
If you have to go to work, and many of us do, then take precautions to limit all personal contact (including no shaking hands, hugs, high-fives, or sharing cups/utensils or even pens). And wearing one of those surgical masks? It won’t keep you from getting the flu, but it can help you stop the spread of sickness to others, so if you’re ailing, put one on in public spaces.
If You Can, Get a Flu Shot!
Yes, even if the flu shot isn’t 100 percent effective, it can lessen the symptoms you experience if you happen to get sick, as well as help stop the spread of illness throughout the community. (And NO, the flu shot cannot give you the flu. Check with your doctor if you have other concerns about the flu shot, given your health history.)
TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
How are you keeping your office as healthy as possible this flu season? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.