It's important to take steps to prevent getting or spreading any kind of influenza. Here are a few easy measures, provided by the Partnership for Excellence, you can take in your daily life to stay healthy:

At Home:

  • Keep your hands clean. Washing your hands regularly is the most powerful thing you can do to prevent infection. Make sure you always remember to wash after going to the bathroom, before you eat, or after taking out the trash. Since it's sometimes difficult to get to a sink, keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your car or bag.
  • Cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue or even the bend in your elbow to prevent spreading germs to others. Make sure to wash your hands afterwards.
  • Take care of cuts, scratches and wounds. Your skin is your armor against harmful bacteria. Keep all cuts, scratches and wounds clean and protected with a clean, dry bandage. Don't "let it breathe" unless your doctor directs you differently. If cuts are not healing, see a doctor.
  • Keep your skin healthy. If it starts getting dry or cracking, apply moisturizing cream to keep skin soft.
  • Use prescription antibiotics responsibly. Be careful not to use prescription antibiotics too often. Doing this can actually make them less effective because it allows germs to build up resistance to medications. If you start taking antibiotics, be sure to take the full prescription. Stopping in the middle may allow the infection to return even stronger.

In the Community:

  • If you are sick, avoid close contact with others. When you are sick, stay home from work or school, avoid public transportation and other places where there are crowds. Don't shake hands or touch others. That way other people won't get sick, and you'll get better faster.
  • Practice good hygiene at the gym. Make sure to clean weights, exercise mats and aerobic equipment with antibacterial wipes before and after you use them. Wear flip flops in the shower and steam room to prevent athlete's foot or other infections. Shower after you work out and make sure you always use a clean towel to dry yourself.
  • Keep exercise equipment clean. If you or someone in your family plays ice hockey, football or some other sport that requires personal protective equipment, be sure they wipe down this equipment with antibacterial wipes after every use. It's important not to share personal equipment.

The infection prevention information in this article was provided by the Partnership for Excellence, a statewide initiative dedicated to helping Massachusetts consumers improve the quality of their own health care. The GIC is a member of the Partnership's Leadership Council.

To keep up with the facts of the swine flu and other disease threats, visit the Centers for Disease Control's website . The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has helpful information on how to care for someone at home who has the flu on their website .

This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission .