Stopping Germs at Home, Work and School
The main way that illnesses like colds and flu are spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. This is called "droplet spread."
This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air and are deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. Sometimes germs also can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches his or her own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands. We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks.
How to Stop the Spread of Germs
In a nutshell: take care to
- Cover your mouth and nose
- Clean your hands often
- Remind your children to practice healthy habits, too
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
Cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.
The "Happy Birthday" song helps keep your hands clean
Not exactly. Yet we recommend that when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm water -- that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. That's about the same time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice!
Alcohol-Based Hand Wipes and Gel Sanitizers Work Too
When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.
Remind children to practice healthy habits too, because germs spread, especially at school. The flu has caused high rates of absenteeism among students and staff in our country's 119,000 schools. Influenza is not the only respiratory infection of concern in schools -- nearly 22 million schools days are lost each year to the common cold alone. However, when children practice healthy habits, they miss fewer days of school.
What are other steps that can be taken to prevent the flu?
There are other good health habits that can help prevent the flu. These are:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Also, antiviral medications may be used to prevent the flu.
Medicare Advantage Plans Expand Coverage to Seniors, Lower Costs for Enrollees
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson announced on Wednesday that Medicare Advantage plans were seeking to expand coverage to 1.6 million additional seniors and persons with disabilities, while also lowering their premium and out of pocket covered services costs by an average of 10 percent and providing more benefits -- evidence that the new Medicare Modernization law is a successful investment in seniors and their access to better health care benefits.
Secretary Thompson said that 35 Medicare Advantage plans had made new applications to provide coverage and 22 had applied for expansion of service areas. If approved this translates into 1.6 million additional Medicare beneficiaries living in 93 counties and 11 states who will have access to Medicare Advantage plans. This expansion is on top of the nearly 5 million Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans who will continue to receive high quality care at affordable costs in 2005.
In addition to an overall expansion of coverage areas, initial analysis show that plan premiums and cost sharing for Medicare-covered services are declining on average by 10 percent, while plans continue to provide more benefits not covered by fee-for-service Medicare, including drugs, dental, vision and preventive and wellness services, providing average savings of about $23 per month.
"The new Medicare Modernization law is expanding access to health care for seniors and lowering their costs," Secretary Thompson said. "We made an investment in seniors and it is paying off with greater access to health care at more affordable costs. Under President Bush's leadership, we are reversing a trend of seniors losing access to Medicare Advantage plans each year to an environment where plans are expanding coverage and lowering costs."
The expansion of Medicare Advantage plans to provide more health care access to seniors represents a significant shift from years of plans dropping out of the Medicare Advantage program and reducing seniors' access to coverage.
"The steps Congress and the Administration have taken to stabilize the Medicare Advantage program are keeping costs down for Medicare beneficiaries," Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator (CMS) Mark B. McClellan, M.D., Ph.D. said. "With a turnaround in the availability of health plans that provide coordinated care in Medicare, we expect that many more Medicare beneficiaries will have access to the savings in Medicare Advantage plans in 2005, on our way to even broader availability of less costly, comprehensive coverage in 2006."
CMS will post the plan benefits and premiums on www.medicare.gov on Oct. 19. The same information will be available by calling 1-800-MEDICARE and is currently being mailed as part of the Medicare & You 2005 handbook that should be arriving in beneficiaries' homes within the next couple of weeks.
Because of hurricane activity, beneficiaries in Florida will begin to receive their Medicare & You 2005 handbooks the first week of November and be able to see updated information on www.medicare.gov at that time as well. Beneficiaries in Florida also have an extended open enrollment period that ends Jan. 31, 2005.
- Sunday, October 10, 2004
- Secretary Thompson is in Mexico attending the inauguration of the Border Bi-national Health Week with Mexican President Vicente Fox.
Monday, October 11, 2004
- Secretary Thompson will be attending the Border Health Commission Meeting in Noqales, Arizona