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Personal NPIs - Everyday Preventive Actions

Woman covering her nose and mouth with a tissue while sneezing.

Woman covering her nose and mouth with a tissue while sneezing.

Personal nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are everyday preventive actions, apart from getting vaccinated and taking medicine, that you can take to help keep yourself and others from getting sick.

Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the flu. A vaccine is available each year for seasonal flu. A flu pandemic is an outbreak caused by a new flu virus that spreads worldwide. Since it is a new virus, it may take several months for manufacturers to develop a vaccine. Personal NPIs can help slow the spread of flu. They also can help give you and others an extra layer of protection and slow the spread of germs even after you are vaccinated.

Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets that come from a sick person’s nose and mouth when coughing, sneezing, or talking. Flu viruses also may spread when you touch something with flu virus on it and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Many other viruses spread this way, too.

It’s important to always take everyday preventive actions to protect yourself and others from getting sick.

Cover your coughs and sneezes.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue, and then wash your hands. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your sleeve, not your hands. Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve helps prevent the spread of flu virus through the air and by the hands. Wearing a surgical mask when you are sick may also help lower the chances of spreading illness to others during a pandemic.

Wash your hands.

Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to clean hands. It is especially important to wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Washing hands lowers the amount of flu virus that may spread when shaking hands or touching surfaces and objects, such as desks and doorknobs.

Stay home when you are sick.

If you get sick, it is important to stay home so that you can get better quickly and not spread germs to others. If you get a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of medicine that lowers fever, such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol®). This will help ensure that your fever is truly gone and that you are past the point where you are likely to spread germs to others. If you get flu-like symptoms without a fever, stay home for at least four days after you get sick to lower the chances of spreading your illness to others. Children and people with weakened immune systems may shed the virus for more than 4 days, so they may need to stay home longer.

Keep your distance.

Stay at least 6 feet away from sick people. Flu droplets can travel up to 6 feet, so keeping this distance from sick people can help lower your chance of becoming sick. During a flu pandemic, especially if you are at high risk for flu complications, avoid places where a lot of people gather, such as concerts, festivals, and sporting events. Consider alternative ways to attend gatherings so you can avoid face-to-face contact, such as watching it on the television or computer.

Clean surfaces and objects routinely.

Routinely clean surfaces and objects that are touched often, including desks, doorknobs, railings, computer keyboards, and phones. Soap and water is all you need to kill flu viruses. A bleach and water solution or disinfectant with a label that says “EPA-approved” for killing bacteria and viruses can also be used to remove and kill germs other than flu. Always follow directions on product labels.

Be informed.

Learn what to expect in the event of a flu pandemic by talking to your community leaders, including state/tribal/local/territorial public health officials, child care and K-12 school administrators, and business leaders. Find out what your options are and what their plans are for community NPIs and other response activities at school, work, and public events.

 
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