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Avoid outbreaks at work

Jennifer Grech learns what to do to prevent catching colds and flu from your colleagues.

Oh no! It’s that time of year again, when you start hearing coughing and sneezing. And there we go… the close quarters of the workplace allow colleagues to easily trade germs.

However, there are many actions you can take to ­prevent spreading cold and flu viruses at work.

Sometimes, you’re actually already at work when you start feeling the initial symptoms of a cold or flu.

In such instance, cover your mouth and your nose when you feel the need to sneeze or cough as the viruses associated with colds and flu are mainly spread through mucus. Preferably use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose, and bin it immediately.

Make sure you keep your hands clean and wash them regularly. You can pick up germs from keyboards, telephone ear and mouth pieces and microwave door handles. So if you feel any symptoms, keep contact with these things to a minimum and wipe them down after you’ve used them.

The best thing is to call in sick if you are suffering from cold or flu-like symptoms; you could be responsible for spreading the virus throughout the workplace if you ­struggle to work!

Sick employees may think they’re being dedicated workers but, the truth is, they spread germs to other employees and cut down on the overall productivity of the business.

Certain workmates might have less immunity protection and can get infected more easily. Their recovery can take longer and could also result in complications.

Encouraging proper hygiene will thus help maintain a happier, healthier workplace.

Here are some tips to prevent catching colds and flu at the workplace:

• Wash your hands for at least 15-20 seconds with soap many times a day, or sanitise with alcohol-gel hand sanitiser, especially following contact with potentially contaminated surfaces, such as hands or face of others, including handshakes; copier machine buttons; elevator buttons; shared books; or other office materials.

• Clean shared items such as phones, keyboards, handles and door knobs with alcohol wipes or other sanitiser-type wipes.

• Avoid close contact with anyone with a cold or flu.

• Sneeze and cough into a tissue, throw the tissue away, and then wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hand. Wipe your elbow with alcohol wipes.

• Get lots of fresh air and keep rooms well ventilated.

Cold facts

• More than 2,000 influenza vaccines have to be thrown away every year by the Government because not all those eligible for the free jab take it, according to Community Care Parliamentary Secretary Mario Galea. This winter, the Government ordered 80,000 vaccines at €2.90 each in the hope that all vulnerable people will take it.

• The number of Maltese who take antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription has dropped from 19 per cent to four per cent over 10 years, but the islands still have one of the highest antibiotics consumption rates in Europe. This has to be reduced to zero per cent and awareness increased on the misuse of antibiotics, which harms not only the patient but the rest of the community, Health Minister Joseph Cassar has said.

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