Being informed and prepared will be your best weapon against an influenza pandemic and other respiratory outbreaks.
When you cough or sneeze, you spray tiny droplets that can move up to three feet through the air and land on other people or surfaces. These droplets contain millions of germs and are the cause of infections such as colds and the flu. People become infected when they breathe in the germs, or when their hands come into contact with germs that are on surfaces (such as handrails, utensils or desks). The flu virus can live on hard, flat surfaces for up to 48 hours. If you touch something after someone has coughed on it and rub your eyes, nose or mouth you can infect yourself. Once you catch it, the flu virus can be contagious days before you even show signs of being sick.
Therefore, spreading awareness (and not germs) is important for our entire community. The following video has been provided by the City of Ottawa and Zoom Productions, in cooperation with Algonquin College, Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, to help promote pandemic and flu awareness on campuses across Ontario, and is included here with permission from Ottawa Public Health and the University of Ottawa:
What You Can Do To Prevent and Prepare:
Practice proper hand hygiene
- Wash your hands directly before and after eating, and after using the washroom, handling garbage, touching animals, sneezing, coughing, blowing your nose and outdoor activities.
- Make sure you rub all parts of your hands and wrists with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Wash your hands for at least 15 seconds.
- Keep you nails trimmed short, and avoid using artificial nails.
- Wear minimal hand jewelry (bracelets, rings and watches), and remove any before washing.
- Download an information poster here.
Practice proper cough etiquette
- Cover your nose and mouth: use a tissue or cough into your sleeve or upper arm.
- If you use a tissue, throw it away and do not reuse it.
- Make sure you wash your hands after coughing or sneezing, or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Do not sneeze or cough into your hands.
- Download an information poster here.
Practice a healthy lifestyle: it will help to strengthen your immune system, so be sure to
- Eat well and drink lots of fluids (even if you aren't sick).
- Exercise regularly.
- Get plenty of rest. If you stay up late, try to find some time to have a nap the next day.
- Be courteous and careful of your surroundings: universities, with communal accommodations in residences and large lecture halls, are the perfect place for viruses to spread, so be aware of those around you and keep your spaces clean.
- If you get sick, stay home. You will recover faster and will prevent the spread of illness.
Get your annual flu vaccination
- Because the virus circulating during a pandemic will be different from the viruses that circulated in the past, the annual flu shot will not protect you during a pandemic.
- However, the annual flu shot reduces your risk of contracting seasonal influenza and helps to keep you and others healthy by decreasing the number of viral strains that are out there.
- Dates for the flu clinic are posted each fall on the Health Services website.
Have a personal plan, be prepared
- Make sure you have everything you need ready to go in case you get sick. Certain supplies, medicine and groceries should be set aside for an emergency. You can download an emergency kit checklist here, and suggestions for pandemic-specific additions to your emergency kit here.
- If you live away from home, decide with your family what will happen if you and/or members of your family get sick. Work out a plan with a friend, too, in case you can't get home or your family can't get to you.
- If you plan to travel, make sure you ask about and take the proper precautions before you leave. Click here for more information.
Information related to the flu and influenza pandemic was gathered from the Region of Waterloo Pandemic Influenza Planning website.
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