Polk County Health Department

Staying Home When Sick and Handwashing Can Reduce Spread of Flu

Influenza season is underway and expected to be more severe than previous years. While flu vaccinations are the most effective ways to prevent influenza, staying home when you are sick and frequent handwashing are alternatives that have proven effective at reducing the spread of disease.

Rick Kozin, Polk County Health Department Director said, “During the H1N1 pandemic when vaccine was not readily available we worked very hard at spreading the message that staying home when you are sick and frequent handwashing can help reduce the spread of disease. Consequently, we saw a decrease in school absentee rates and a less severe pandemic than was anticipated.”

Influenza is an airborne virus that spreads when an infected individual coughs or sneezes so can easily be passed from person to person. The easiest way for germs to enter our body is when we touch our nose or mouth with unclean hands. Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds using soap and warm water.

“Washing your hands is an effective way to stop germs from entering your body. We hope that anyone unfortunate enough to get sick will take the necessary steps to make sure no one else gets sick ,” said Mr. Kozin.

If you have influenza and go to work, school or daycare you are not only bringing irritating coughs, sneezes and sniffles, you are putting others at risk of catching influenza. Some people, like young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions are at higher risk for complications like pneumonia, hospitalization or even death.

“If you have symptoms that include fever, chills, headache, runny nose, weakness or fatigue, cough, diarrhea or vomiting you should stay home from work, school or daycare. You are most contagious when you have a fever or for about five days after your symptoms appear,” said Mr. Kozin.

The best way to recover from the flu is to stay home, get plenty of rest, drink a lot of fluids, and treat symptoms such as fever and cough with over the counter medications. Local hospitals are asking community members to refrain from visiting emergency rooms for non-emergent medical care. Instead individuals experiencing non-life-threatening illnesses who are unable to see their primary care doctor should seek treatment from a local urgent care or walk-in clinic. Flu vaccinations are still available at the Polk County Health Department.

Contact Us

Phone: (515)-286-3798
Fax: (515)-286-2033

Address: 1907, Carpenter Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50314