Millions of Americans will gather for a celebration of food, friends and football this weekend.
But between the snacks, high-fives and inevitable social media debates over officiating and the halftime show, be sure to take simple precautions to protect yourself and others from the flu, said a Purdue University public health expert.
“If you are sick or a family member or friend you are planning on visiting for a Super Bowl gathering is sick with the flu or influenza-like illnesses, you should avoid contact,” said Libby Richards, an associate professor of nursing who specializes in public health in Purdue’s School of Nursing. “Don’t visit until the symptoms have resolved — even if that means having to stay home for the big game.”
If you are hosting a party, people should wash their hands before eating or snacking and use utensils to handle food. Other tips include keeping a bottle of antibacterial hand gel near common gathering places and using paper towels in the bathroom instead of a regular cotton towel.
Another easy tip after high-fiving your friends following a great play or commercial: “Don’t touch your face, eyes, nose or mouth afterward, as that is an easy way to transfer germs,” Richards said.
The latest influenza update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a slight increase in overall flu activity from previous weeks. At least 15 million people have been diagnosed with influenza this season, leading to 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths. The CDC also reported that the number of children who died from the flu this season is now 54.
While the best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated, if you get the flu you should rest, hydrate and limit contact with others, Richards said. You can use over-the-counter medications, and you should contact your health care provider or seek treatment at an urgent care facility if symptoms get worse.