’Tis the season for the flu! Protect yourself!

OKEECHOBEE — Flu season is here, and it’s often marked by the offers of free flu shots in neighborhood pharmacies and stores across the country. SERVPRO cleaning pros in the Okeechobee area — experts in cleaning and sanitizing building materials, surfaces, and contents after fire, water, or natural disasters — remind home and business owners how important it is to step-up routine cleaning efforts during this time of year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu virus can remain viable on surfaces for up to 48 hours. Cleaning surfaces and objects that are frequently touched minimizes the likelihood of contacting the flu virus when you touch an infected surface.

According to the CDC, nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population suffered from the flu in 2018. More than 950,000 people were hospitalized and almost 80,000 people died from flu complications, making 2018 the most severe flu season since 2009.

“As an emergency response company, we understand the hidden danger of contaminated surfaces in a workplace or home,” said Rick Isaacson, CEO of Servpro Industries, LLC. “This time of year, the flu virus can be a ‘hidden danger’ at home, at work, and in the community. It is a serious illness, and we want our friends and neighbors in the Okeechobee area to take it seriously.”

The CDC recommends the following to help protect yourself or your loved ones from contracting the flu.

  1. Get vaccinated. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccination as the first and most important protection against this serious virus.
  2. Thoroughly wash your hands (20 seconds or more with soap and water) or sanitize them frequently throughout the day, even if you are not infected, to help protect yourself and others.
  3. Beware of frequently touched surfaces, like handrails and doorknobs. Keep them clean at home using a bleach and water solution and clean your hands as soon as possible if you must touch them in public.

If you or a family member comes down with the flu despite these precautions, keep in mind the flu spreads primarily through droplets from a sick person when they cough, sneeze or talk. With that in mind, the CDC offers the following guidelines to help control the spread of the disease:

  1. Stay home and keep your distance. Infected droplets from a sick person’s nose or mouth can travel up to six feet and land in the noses and mouths of people nearby, exposing them to the illness.
  2. Wait until you are fever free — without medications — for at least 24 hours before returning to school, work, or normal activities.
  3. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, your sleeve, or your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the tissue and clean your hands with soap or a sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol.

There is no such thing as a foolproof flu protection plan, says Isaacson, but frequent hand-washing and conscientious cleaning practices at home, work, and in the community are precautions everyone can practice to help keep them and their loved ones healthy. For more flu statistics and tips on how to help prevent the spread of the flu virus, visit cdc.gov/flu.

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