How to prevent spreading the flu at holiday gatherings

Health News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The winter holidays always overlaps with the flu season. So, how do you not spread the virus while visiting family?

The answer is simple, but not so easy: Don’t go.

Dena Mashburn, director of nursing at the Knox County Health Department, said that if you’re coughing and have a fever — skip the family gathering or work party so the germs can’t spread.

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“We often are sharing our Christmases, our holidays, with the oldest in our families and the youngest in our families and they’re the most vulnerable,” Mashburn said.

If you don’t use that advice, Mashburn said to be very aware of where you breathe, what you touch and wash your hands often.

She said to make sure you get the flu vaccine because it not only reduces the chance of contracting the virus, but the vaccine also lessens the chance of spreading the virus to others.

Mashburn said there are plenty of ways you could spread the virus at a family dinner.

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“You’re sharing utensils, you’re sharing everything, you’re passing the salt and pepper. All of those sorts of things. You’re coughing and your hands are dirty and then you go touch your nose and you breathe it in,” Mashburn said.

She said that because the flu spreads through respiratory droplets, a person can’t necessarily spread the germs after coughing on food.

If you have to cough, Mashburn said to cover your mouth with your elbow, so you don’t cough the germs onto your hands.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with the flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away.

Mashburn said that gloves only work if people use them correctly, such as constantly replacing them after touching something.

“Oftentimes people will put gloves on and they become magic hands so they touch everything and don’t realize that they’d just done exactly what they would’ve done without. So washing your hands is the most important thing,” Mashburn said.

She said that wearing a mask may or may not prevent you from spreading the virus or protect you from contracting it, but it doesn’t hurt because the mouth and nose are covered.

RELATED: Knoxville family stresses ‘Don’t kiss baby’ during flu season after daughter is hospitalized with RSV

If someone recently tested positive for the flu, Mashburn said they need to wait at least seven days before being in close quarters with other people.

She said that if someone tested positive for the flu a few days after visiting family, they should notify their family members.


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