CDC Influenza Information

What’s the simplest way to protect yourself from



  • Many outbreaks of food-borne illness are traced to unwashed or poorly washed hands.
  • Sneezing and coughing can spread cold germs into the air, but most colds are caught and spread through germs on people’s hands.
  • The germs that cause the flu, SARS, hepatitis A and many kinds of diarrhea can also be picked up and spread by your hands.
  • If these germs are on your hands, touching your mouth or nose to eat, sneeze, or cough can make you sick.
  • Touching a doorknob, pressing an elevator button, grabbing a pole on public transit or shaking hands can spread germs to others.  
Always wash your hands…

Before you:
Touch or serve food  
Eat or drink  
Put in or take out contact lenses  
Treat a cut, scrape, burn or blister
Take care of someone who is sick

After you:  
Go to the bathroom  
Help someone else use the bathroom  
Change a diaper (don’t forget to wash the baby’s hands too!)  
Cough, sneeze, blow your nose or wipe a child’s nose  
Handle uncooked food, especially raw meat, poultry, fish or eggs  
Handle garbage  
Touch an animal—especially a reptile—or clean up animal waste  
Take care of someone who is sick or injure  
Use public transportation


  • Washing our hands is a lesson we all learned as children, but when we’re busy or in a hurry, we tend to rush or forget to do it.  We think our hands are clean, but they’re not if we haven’t done it right.
  • Just rinsing your hands isn’t washing them, it’s wetting them.  To get them clean you need to use soap.
  •  A quick rub, even with soap, won’t get your hands clean, and the few seconds you save could cost you days if you get sick later.
  •  To make sure your hands are really clean, scrub your palms, between your fingers, the backs of your hands and under your fingernails for at least 20 seconds.
  •  Use regular soap.  Antibacterial soap isn’t necessary.  These soaps do kill bacteria, but antibacterial soaps may contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
  •  After rinsing, dry your hands with a paper towel.  Use the same paper towel to turn off the water and open the restroom door.
Handwashing is the 20-second solution to protecting yourself from many diseases.

 So remember:

  • Use soap
  • Wash often
  • Wash long enough

For more information about handwashing, please call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology and Immunization at 617.983.6800 or visit the MDPH website at