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Message to DOC personnel - Healthier Homes Oct 29, 2009

October 29, 2008

Message to Department of Commerce Personnel on Healthier Home During Cold and Flu Season

Did you know scientists estimate that up to 80% of all infections are transmitted by your hands? Harmful germs can live on almost anything you touch – from doorknobs, to computers, to animals, even food. Handwashing may be the single most important action you can take to help stop the spread of infection and stay healthy.

Do you know how to tell if you’re washing your hands thoroughly? Fist, wet your hands, apply soap and scrub for 20 seconds to remove stubborn germs. Then, rinse well and completely dry your hands. How long is 20 seconds? About the time it takes you to sing (presumably to yourself!) Happy Birthday twice. If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol based wipe or hand sanitizing gel that contains a minimum of 62% alcohol to clean your hands.

Why are clean hands important? As we enter the cold and flu season it is important to keep your hands clean when you or others around you are coughing and sneezing. Frequent hand washing is also one of the best ways to keep you and your family from spreading illnesses at home. Teaching your family when and how to wash their hands is an important technique not only in controlling the spread of germs during the cold and flu season, but also during emergencies such as a pandemic influenza.

What is a pandemic influenza? It is a global disease outbreak. A pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges, spreads easily person-to-person, causes serious illness, and sweeps across the country and around the world in very short time. It is difficult to predict when the next pandemic influenza will occur. Health professionals are currently tracking the continued spread of a highly pathogenic avian H5N1 influenza virus across eastern Asia and other countries as a potential threat to human health.

While the Department established its Plan for Pandemic Influenza in January 2008, pandemic preparedness is ongoing and evolving. The Department Plan is posted on the Office of Security web site at: http://home.commerce.gov/osy/coop/index.htm

For the Department Plan to be successful, preparedness must occur on two fronts: the workplace and your home. The Department continues to implement actions to protect you at work. Effective hand washing is one action you can take now to protect yourself and your entire family during the cold and flu season and to be prepared in the event of a pandemic.

For more information on protecting your family, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed a brochure titled “Safer Healthier Home.” To access the booklet go to the following DOC Office of Occupational Safety and Health web site and click on "Campaign: Seven Keys": http://hr.commerce.gov/Employees/WorkLifeIssues/DEV01_006092

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