How to Avoid The Office Bug

At work, workers fall ill from colds and the flu, one after the other. It’s a common scenario. Still, who wants to get sick right?

Dr. Neil Fishman, associate professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and director of the Department of Healthcare Epidemiology and Infection Control for the University of Pennsylvania Health System says "We know that some years (viruses) are more severe than others. But it’s [possible] to totally avoid getting sick."

Cold and Flu Viruses

Cold and flu viruses are actually present the whole year round. They only seem to attack when the weather cools because the cold, dry air drains the regular amount of mucus in the nasal passages, thus it is easier for viruses to latch on to the tissues in the nose. People also tend to spend more time indoors during the winter season. This increases our chances of coming in contact with someone who is sick.

At work, there’s a big possibility that you’ll come in contact with an infected colleague, specifically because some people don’t take sick days off from work. In a 2007 CCH survey of over 300 HR executives in US organizations, 38 percent said presenteeism, (when sick employees show up for work) was a problem in their businesses. 87 percent also said that those employees usually sick with colds or the flu. A previous study led by Walter "Buzz" Stewart, director of the Geisinger Center for Health Research, estimated that presenteeism costs US organizations $150 billion per year in productivity.

Viruses spread very easily. Dr. William Schaffner, professor and chair of the Vanderbilt Department of Preventive Medicine and vice president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases says, "If you had X-ray vision you would see a cloud of viruses around them. Every time they exhale, respiratory viruses come out, extending about three feet, creating a cloud around them."

This means that you can get the virus by just standing next to an infected colleague. You can even get infected with having to go near a sick colleague. A 2006 University of Virginia Health System research shows that people infected with rhinovirus which causes half of all colds, can infect objects that they touch, such as light switches. When others touch this contaminated light switch, they an get infected as well. What even worse is that a day before you actually get sick, you’re already spreading the virus. Meaning, the colleague you had lunch with the day before could be sick but not have any symptoms yet.

What you can do?

You may be tired of hearing or reading about it, but most experts and infectious-disease specialists agree that washing your hands thoroughly can help you avoid getting sick. Dr. Bill Sutker, medical director of infectious diseases at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas says most organisms are transmitted through hand contact and sneezes.

You should also avoid touching your face if you haven’t washed your hands yet.

You can also use a paper towel as a protective shield for your hand when opening door knobs. You can also keep a hand sanitizer on your desk. Sutker says, "Since not everyone spends the recommended 15 seconds scrubbing when they wash their hands, an alcohol-based gel is a good back-up method."

As for strengthening you immunity, doctors say shouldn’t bet on pills or supplements. Most doctors agree that there’s not enough evidence to recommend Vitamin C products or Echinacea to protect you against viruses. Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York says the best you can do is take a multivitamin regularly, and concentrate on the foundations of good health such as proper nutrition, exercise, and enough sleep.

Source: MSN Health