The Surprising Whys of Disease Prevention

It’s nearly spring, but the flu still lurks in cubicles, classrooms, and corridors throughout the Upper Valley. Those with compromised immune systems are most at risk, including many of the residents at Kendal retirement community. Beth Rostron, Kendal’s infection and prevention nurse and quality assurance nurse manager, vigilantly tracks infection among the residents and staff to prevent wide-spread illness.

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Beth began working at Kendal as a licensed nursing assistant in 2011 with a two-year associates degree from River Valley Community College. Since then, she has taken advantage of Kendal’s tuition reimbursement and continuing education scholarships to help her pursue her Bachelor of Science in nursing at Southern New Hampshire University. Many of the residents contribute to the staff development fund and support the career and educational advancement of Kendal’s staff.

Recently, Beth explained the how and the why of disease prevention.

1.       It’s rubbing, not antibacterial soap, that eliminates germs during handwashing. The friction of scrubbing your hands for 20-30 seconds destroys bacterial and viral cell walls. Ordinary, non-antibacterial soap will wash the residue away. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers work by the same principle. Don’t squirt and go. Rub to kill germs.

2.       The flu vaccine was 30% effective this year. Get vaccinated anyway. Between the time the flu vaccine was manufactured and when it is injected into you and me, the flu virus has mutated. The fever your office mate has is no longer caused by the same virus you were vaccinated against. But, the vaccine triggered your body’s immune system, causing it to build antibodies to ward off attacks from similar viruses. The virus circulating during flu season still bears a family resemblance to the virus in the vaccine, giving your immune system a head start when it encounters the flu. As a result, you may still get the flu after being vaccinated, but it is likely to be less severe.

3.       The infected body eliminates the disease agents through every orifice. Most of us know that germs are present in coughs and sneezes. Did you know that they could also be flaking off the skin? Or that they exit the body when we . . . errr . . . eliminate other things? To prevent re-infection or exposing others to disease, wipes surfaces that are frequently touched and clean linens.

4.       Feed a cold and feed a fever. Fluids and nourishment are especially important when the sick person doesn’t want to eat or drink. Use popsicles, Jello, and ginger ale to entice the ill person.

5.       Keep it to yourself. If you feel ill, stay home. “In this case,” Beth says, “misery does not love company.”

Thankfully, most healthy adults recover from the flu within a few weeks without needing medical intervention. For those with a compromised immune system, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention if you are concerned, but especially if there is fever, change in personality, fatigue, nausea, or vomiting. Even those who appear most ill may rally, Beth says, remarking that “the human body is amazing and resilient.”


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