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Flu prevention: first and foremost, wash hands often

When infection must be avoided: frequent hand-washing, and surgical masks for patients.

When it is essential not to pass on a respiratory infection, it is best to encourage infected patients to wear a surgical face mask for as long as sneezing and coughing last, to wash their hands frequently with soap and water (as soon as they may become soiled) and to keep their distance from persons who are at risk. Wiping down objects and surfaces which may be soiled can help prevent indirect contamination.

Persons who must avoid infection should wash their hands before touching their mouth, nose or eyes, and whenever their hands may be soiled, especially from touching objects. It is best to keep one's distance from persons who display symptoms.

In daily life, these measures are difficult to apply strictly, and necessitate detailed instructions and adaptations to various living situations. Since these precautions cannot be entirely effective, certain patients should envisage complementary preventive measures, such as vaccination or, rarely, antiviral medication.

For more on the H1N1 flu:
> H1N1v flu vaccines (Celvapan°, Focetria°, Pandemrix°, Panenza°), December 2009
> More on the H1N1 flu: the truth about antivirals, and the risks for pregnant women and infants, December 2009

©Prescrire December 2009

Source: "Prévention des grippes: d'abord se laver souvent les mains" Rev Prescrire 2009; 29 (313); 848-849.