How to protect yourself and your loved ones against the flu, avian flu (bird flu) and other colds and cough illnesses.

The following tips can help protect you and your loved ones during the regular flu season, as well as from the threat of bird flu and other colds and cough illnesses.

Wash your hands: Wash your hands often with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth: This decreases the chance that you will introduce influenza virus and other infectious agents into parts of your body where infection can begin. It also decreases your potential infectiousness to others.

Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze: Never cough in the direction of someone else. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inside of your elbow.

Clean things that are touched often: Clean things that are touched often at home, work or school like door or refrigerator handles, computer keyboards, mouse, phone and water faucets.

Avoid close contact with others who are ill: Avoid holding, hugging or kissing anyone who has a cold or flu.
Those with young children, immune system problems and the chronically ill should avoid large crowds, unless necessary.

Avoid bird markets and farms or direct contact with birds when visiting countries that have bird flu: For information about travel to countries that have bird flu, visit the CDC traveler's Web site at

Stay home when you are ill: If you have flu symptoms, stay home from work or school and avoid public activities for at least five days (seven for children).

Get a flu shot annually: The current flu vaccine does not provide protection against bird flu. But, getting a flu shot every year is an important way to stay healthy.

Ask your health care provider if you should get a pneumococcal shot: You may need it if you are at high risk.

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