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Loyola health services experts offer tips for staying healthy during holiday travel

Loyola press release - November 23, 2009

The holidays often mean bringing people close together for family gatherings and get-togethers, but it’s also an ideal way for illness to spread. Before and during any holiday travel, practicing everyday healthy habits and getting vaccinated can help prevent the spread of flu, says Alicia Bourque, Loyola University New Orleans director of counseling and health services.

“Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the busiest times of the year to travel. Not only will people be exposed to family members they haven’t seen for a while, but it also means close contact with others during travel,” said Bourque. “In order to minimize exposure to the H1N1 flu and the seasonal flu, practicing prevention is the most important thing you can do to stay healthy. It’s also very important to get vaccinated against both types of flu as soon as possible.”

The Centers for Disease Control expects that the 2009 H1N1 flu and seasonal flu activity will remain high during the 2009-10 flu season. So far, the CDC says most flu cases this year have been attributed to the 2009 H1N1 flu or "swine flu." However, officials expect both 2009 H1N1 flu and seasonal flu to cause illness, hospital stays and deaths this season.

Bourque offers the following advice to stay healthy during the holidays:

  • Get vaccinated. Vaccination is the best protection we have against flu. The seasonal flu vaccine and the 2009 H1N1 vaccine are now readily available in several locations throughout Louisiana. Go to http://apps14.dhh.louisiana.gov/h1n1/default.aspx and enter your zip code or parish to get a list of sites that are administering the H1N1 vaccine. Seasonal flu vaccine is also available from many sources including your own doctor or health care provider, or retail outlets in or near your neighborhood.

  • Avoid close contact with sick people. The flu is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people. Keep your distance when possible.

  • Wash your hands often. Wash your hands with warm water and soap, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub, even when your hands are not visibly dirty. Other hand sanitizers that do not contain alcohol also may be useful.

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After coughing or sneezing, throw your used tissue in the trash. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or upper sleeve, not into your hands.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs are spread this way.

To arrange an interview with Bourque, contact Meredith Hartley with Loyola’s Office of Public Affairs at 504-861-5883.