Flu season was more challenging than usual this year thanks to the Novel H1N1 virus.

Cleaning Hard Surfaces

Clean hard surfaces that may have flu germs on them: doorknobs, bedside tables, sinks, toilets, counters, phones and toys.

Use common household staples that kill germs: bleach, vinegar, soap and water.

Cleaning Bed Linens and Laundry

Wash sheets and towels with normal laundry soap and tumble dry on a hot dryer setting. Hold all dirty laundry away from your face and body. Wash hands right after touching dirty laundry.

It’s OK to wash the sick person’s bedding or clothes with other people’s laundry.

Cleaning Dishes

Wash the sick person’s dishes with normal dish soap and hot water, or place in the dishwasher.

In a typical flu outbreak, adults in the 64-plus age bracket are the ones more likely to becomeseriously sick, but while everyone was at risk for H1N1, children and young adults were front and center. Another deviation this season was in preparedness. Due to H1N1’s uniqueness, being proactive meant receiving immunizations for both seasonal and H1N1 viruses. One immunization did not defend against both bugs.

What did not change, however, is what to do to stop the family home from becoming an incubator for germs when someone in the household is ill. No need to go out and buy special disinfectants. Chances are the best sanitizer is already there in the laundry room.

It’s called bleach.

H1N1, like all flu viruses, is respiratory-borne. When a sick person coughs or sneezes, droplets full of H1N1 fly through the air and land on countertops, doorknobs, floors, sinks and walls. H1N1 can survive for hours on these surfaces. Anyone touching these areas has a very good chance of picking up the virus and becoming ill.

Coughing or sneezing into the elbow or shoulder and frequent hand washing with soap and water are essential in stopping the spread of H1N1 and other respiratory illnesses. However, once the bug is out and about, new research shows that wiping down contaminated areas with a solution of one percent household bleach and hot water is the best weapon around for keeping the house from turning into an H1N1 breeding ground. Other household staples effective against H1N1 include a ten percent solution of vinegar and water and regular dishwashing soap.

These household items are all readily available and inexpensive. Use them with these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to defend your house from H1N1.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]