On the heels of what is expected to be a bad flu season, health officials are suggesting locations and items to avoid to protect people from the contagious respiratory illness.
Dr. Donald Bucklin of U.S. Health Works says this year there are four types of influenza that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified as leading to the most flu cases this year.
"We down in the Southern Hemisphere's winter, identify the dominant viruses that will jump to the Northern Hemisphere and that's where we get antigens," Bucklin said.
Health officials are reminding people that the flu vaccine is just proteins of the virus, and not the virus itself.
Top five ways to avoid catching influenza:
- Debit card machines. When using debit car machines, health officials are urging people to use their knuckles instead of their fingertips. That way, if someone rubs their eyes or mouth they’re not transferring germs.
- Community pens. Never pick up a public pen that is covered in other people’s germs. Get into the habit of keeping a pen on your person.
- Shaking hands. Avoid shaking people’s hands — especially during flu season. Consider doing a “fist bump” instead. If you do shake someone’s hand, wash or sanitize your hands immediately afterward.
- Cellphones & tablets. Start wiping down your phone with disinfecting wipes to cut back on spreading germs.
- Gas pump. To protect yourself at the pump, use a paper towel when picking up the gas nozzle. You can also use the same paper towel when punching in your debit or credit card information.
Experts say aside from the five most comment places, people are most likely to catch the flu in their own homes.
"The problem is we bundle up in our houses in the winter and there just isn't as much circulation," Bucklin said. "Humidity goes up and that's just great atmosphere for influenza."
If you haven't received the flu shot and you catch the flu, visit a doctor. They can put you on antivirals but if you've been sick for longer than two days antivirals won't help.
*Interesting fact: Dr. Bucklin says that if 80-percent of the population gets their flu shot, we would be immune from the flu. On average, only 40-percent of the population will get their flu shot.