Understanding how germs spread can help decrease your risk of infecting yourself or others. Infectious diseases are spread through direct contact or indirect contact with another person, through the air and by contaminated food.
The most common way to transmit germs is through physical contact or exchanging body fluids. Coughing and sneezing can also spread germs.
Organisms can live on objects such as tables, doorknobs and faucets for a short period of time. If you touch the object soon after the exposed person and then touch your mouth, nose or eyes, you may be exposed to infection.
Food may also carry bacteria that can spread through your body if it is not prepared properly. More than 50 percent of all food-borne illnesses in the United States are caused by norovirus, which is sometimes referred to as the stomach flu. Norovirus infections occur year-round but more commonly in the winter months.
Another common illness affecting people in the winter is influenza. While there is a vaccine available for the flu, there is no vaccine to prevent the norovirus.
So what can you do to ward off these infections?
According to Lynn Cravero, Infection Control Nurse for the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital, the answer is simple: wash your hands often and cover your cough and sneezes.
“Containment of coughs and sneezes is important, but the biggest preventative measure is through good hand hygiene practices at home, work and anywhere you go,” she said. “Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water often and especially before you touch your face. This is the most effective way to prevent spreading infections.”