As flu season continues, physicians at American Family Care have identified the top five places with the most germs and how to protect yourself from them:
1. Debit card machine: Get into the habit of punching in your debit card PIN with a knuckle instead of a fingertip. This way if you rub your eye or mouth with your fingertip, you’re not transferring germs.
2. Community pens: Whether at work or signing a credit card receipt at a store, never pick up a public pen because they’re covered with other people's germs. Keep a pen handy for any situation that could pop up.
3. Shaking hands: People are more germ-conscious these days, so avoiding a handshake is not as rude as once thought, especially during flu season. If you must do it, wash or sanitize your hands immediately.
4. Cellphones, tablets: We are constantly using our phones or computer tablets to show friends and coworkers pictures or videos. This means other people are putting their germs on something you are constantly touching. Get into the habit of wiping your phone down with a disinfecting wipe to cut down on spreading germs.
5. Gas pump: Drivers must get gas no matter what, sick or not. Protect yourself at the pump, grab a paper towel by the pump before picking up the gas nozzle. You can also use the paper towel as a barrier when punching in your debit/credit card info.
Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County's public health officer, said, "The best protection against the flu is getting vaccinated."
Influenza is continuing to spread, with the number of cases confirmed by laboratory testing last week 56 percent higher than the week before. Overall, more than 1,300 cases of the flu have been diagnosed in San Diego County, nearly triple the almost 450 at this time last year.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots annually for everyone at least 6 months old. Vaccination is more important for people with weakened immune systems, as well as those who are pregnant, elderly or live with or care for others at high risk.
Other suggestions for staying healthy include frequent hand-washing, using hand sanitizers, staying away from sick people, avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth, and cleaning commonly touched surfaces.
Flu vaccines are available at doctors' offices and pharmacies. People without medical insurance can go to a county public health center to get vaccinated. A list of locations is available at www.sdiz.org or by calling 211.