With a new deadly virus sweeping the globe, there has been a lot of attention of late on how to best protect ourselves from disease and infection. While a lot of this discussion is based around scare-tactics and unfounded fears, it is always a good idea to protect yourself from the more common viruses and bacteria that you come across as part of your daily life, such as colds and flu.
Here are the best ways you can protect yourself from disease and infections, from the more minor to the most severe.
- Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene
Infectious diseases are transmitted when tiny organisms (namely viruses or bacteria) move between one person to another. One of the best ways of preventing this spread is by killing these organisms before they can be transmitted.
The most common way that these organisms are transmitted is through our hands. Our hands touch thousands of surfaces, objects and other people, and can pick up viruses and bacteria as they do so. It is therefore critical to wash your hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap regularly throughout the day.
It is also important to kill these organisms in the places they breed and build up, then getting transmitted to other people. These places include many surfaces in our homes, offices and public spaces, particularly kitchens and bathroom. It is important that this spaces are kept meticulously clean at all times.
Scrupulous hygiene includes not just the most obvious measures such as washing your hands, but also other aspects of hygiene, such as effective workplace waste disposal, and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
- Keep Vaccinations Up to Date
Vaccinations are one of the greatest weapons we have against disease and infections in the 21st century. Advances in science of decades has meant that we now have vaccinations for a range of diseases, from influenza to formerly common, deadly diseases such as polio.
Children and infants should receive their full set of recommended vaccinations, and some of these vaccinations (notably tetanus and polio) need to be boosted throughout adulthood at set intervals. Additional vaccinations may also be required for international travel, so it is important to check with your doctor before you travel overseas. It is also important to make sure your pets are up to date with their vaccinations, to not only protect your health, but also protect you and your family.
- Be Vigilant When Travelling
It is important to take additional precautions when traveling, including but not limited to making sure you are up to date with all the relevant vaccinations.
Other hazards you may encounter when traveling, particularly to developing countries include:
- Risk of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and yellow fever: protect yourself by wearing insect repellent that contains DEET, and covering the skin with long pants and shirt sleeves.
- Risk of gastro-intestinal conditions caused by consuming unclean water: only drink filtered or boiled water in countries where the water supply is not guaranteed safe, and beware of consuming drinks with ice in them, or fruit and vegetables that may have been washed in tap water.
- Risk of infections from undercooked or improperly prepared food: avoid street food or eating food in establishments with questionable hygiene.
- Be even more vigilant with hygiene practices than at home
Additionally, be vigilant of not bringing infections back with you once you return home, for everyone’s benefit. If you feel unwell when overseas, particularly in countries with known incidents of particular diseases, be sure to see a doctor before travelling home and risking spreading the infection.
- Practice Good Food Safety
Food safety is important in protecting you and your family from infections at all times, not only when travelling. Food-borne infections are generally relatively minor, but can lead to serious medical conditions, including meningitis and kidney failure. Food-borne infections come from food that has not been appropriately prepared or stored, letting harmful microbes grow in the food.
Effective food safety measures include washing your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meat, rinsing all food under running water prior to cooking, separating raw foods and cooked foods, and not preparing raw and cooked foods on the same cutting board of kitchen equipment. Also make sure you properly cook all food: poultry should be cooked to 180° F, roasts and steaks to 145° F, and ground meats to 160° F, and fish should be cooked until it is opaque.
Protecting yourself from disease and infection comes down to four key measures: effective hygiene, vaccinations, proper food safety, and taking special precautions when travelling. By taking these simple yet effective measures, you can protect you and your family from a great many infections and stay healthy in most instances.