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Personal NPIs: Everyday Preventive Actions


What are personal nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs)?

Personal NPIs are everyday preventive actions, apart from pharmaceutical interventions such as getting vaccinated and taking medicine that can help keep yourself and others from getting and spreading respiratory illnesses like the flu. They include:

  • Staying home when you are sick.
  • Staying home if you have been exposed to a family or household member who is sick.
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
  • Washing hands or using hand sanitizer.
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a mask or cloth if you are  sick and around  people or at a mass gathering in a community where the pandemic is already occurring.

Public health professionals need the help of administrators for schools, workplaces, and community events to prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses like pandemic flu in their area.  Educating and reminding people to take these everyday preventive actions consistently at home, at school, at work, and at a gathering is an important part of an organization’s or community’s strategy for minimizing the risks caused by flu and other respiratory illnesses.

Also see how community NPIs and environmental NPIs contribute to an overall community strategy for pandemic influenza mitigation.

The actions you take and plans you make today matter. To ensure the greatest impact, CDC recommends that communities and organizations incorporate a combination of personal, community, and environmental NPIs into their pandemic flu plans.

Why are personal NPIs important?

The flu virus is believed to spread mainly from person to person through droplets that come from the nose and mouth when a sick person coughs, sneezes, or talks. The flu virus may also spread when people touch something with flu virus on it, and then touch their eyes, nose, or mouth. Many other viruses that cause respiratory illnesses spread this way, too.

While getting an annual flu vaccination is the best way to prevent seasonal flu, personal NPIs are simple everyday preventive actions that people can take to help lower their risk of coming in contact with flu and other similar viruses. These everyday preventive actions serve as an extra layer of protection even after people are vaccinated.

In the event that a new flu virus emerges that can rapidly spread from person to person worldwide, causing a flu pandemic, a vaccine may not be immediately available. During a pandemic, personal NPIs become some of the most important ways that individuals can protect themselves and others from the flu.

Visit other parts of this website to learn about ways people can protect themselves and others from getting and spreading the flu at home, at school, at work, and at a gathering.

Flu Prevention Tools and Resources for Personal NPIs

Planning Guides and Checklists

The Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation [PDF - 97 pages] is a guidance document that includes planning guides and checklists for different audiences and settings.

Educational Materials

Selected Published Research

The following published research includes a study on NPIs conducted by researchers within the past 5 years that are published in peer-reviewed journals. (In alphabetical order by topic.)

Hand Hygiene