Colds and flu

Updated 10 March 2016

7 ways to keep a healthy distance between you and the flu

Avoid the impeding wave of flu germs by steering clear of people who might be contagious.

Applying the principle of social distancing can help you avoid the flu – i.e. by staying clear of people and not touching high traffic surfaces.

Read: Symptoms of a cold 

How does it work? The best way to apply social distancing is: taking all possible steps to avoid touching communal use surfaces like doorknobs and hand rails; and staying clear of large social gatherings like sporting events and interpersonal contact like shaking hands or kissing.

Read: Most South Africans go to work when they have the flu

Examples of where it has been used

A recent study, based on data gathered in Mexico during the 2009 outbreak of the H1N1 virus, found that when the South American country’s government took the proactive steps to close schools and cancel sports games at stadiums a few days into the outbreak, they had some success curtailing the outbreak among certain age groups. The measures were controversial, because despite the growing mortality rates, many felt that this was an overreaction.

Read: Faster vaccination saves lives in flu pandemics

What a professional has to say:

This is a video interview with Gerald Chowell-Puente, assistant professor for the ASU School of Human Evolution and Social Change. He was a researcher on the ground at the time of the outbreak in Mexico. He acknowledges some people’s reservations, but feels that it was the right step to curb the epidemic. 

Read: Where germs love to hide

Here are some tips if you have the flu and/or it has infected the office and you’re trying to stay healthy:

7 ways that you can use social distancing to recover from the cold and avoid spreading it: 

1. Avoid: travelling; large crowds, like those at concerts; door handles or hand rails.
2. Stay at home if you're sick. 
3. Give common use areas in the office like the break room or office kitchen a wide birth.
4. Try not to encounter people face-to-face. Rather employ teleconferencing or, if possible, video conferencing.
5. If you have to meet in person, minimise the meeting time, book a large room and sit at least one meter or more away from people, and don't shake hands or kiss anyone.
6. Bring lunch from home and eat at your desk instead of going to a crowded restaurant or take-away outlet. 
7. Wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer when you can’t, and try not to touch your eyes or nose. 

Read More:

Women may have better resistance against flu

Why an ineffective flu remedy is still being advertised in South Africa

Echinacea proven to fight flu


Ask the Expert

Flu expert

Dr Heidi van Deventer completed her MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 2004 at the University of Stellenbosch.
She has additional training in ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) and PALS (Paediatric Advanced Life Support) as well as biostatistics and epidemiology.

Dr Van Deventer is currently working as a researcher at the Desmond Tutu Tuberculosis Centre at the University of Stellenbosch.

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