The Star-Herald

Cell carrier recommends ‘wiping and swiping’ to avoid flu

MAINE — According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year’s flu season was one of the worst on record. Simple, everyday acts like washing your hands throughout the day and making sure surfaces you touch most often are clean can help stave off the flu.

In fact, viruses that cause influenza can survive on hard surfaces like phones and keyboards for up to 48 hours. Considering that the average cell phone user touches their phone 2,617 times every day, smartphones can be a hotbed for germs, said officials from U.S. Cellular.

“Experts tell us that the most common ways the flu is spread is through person-to-person contact, as well as from dirty hands that touch our face,” said Matt Kasper, director of sales for U.S. Cellular in New England. “For this reason, we highly recommend washing hands after handling objects touched by others and not sharing your smartphone with others, especially during flu season.”

The company recommended the following tips to help stay healthy.

-Keep surfaces clean.  According to an annual survey by U.S. Cellular, 41 percent of smartphone owners check their phone on average once an hour and 20 percent every few seconds or minutes. The carrier recommends cleaning devices frequently with a soft, slightly damp, lint-free cloth, using hands-free headsets and avoiding using devices in restrooms.

-Flu outbreaks. Early detection and early response are key to preventing the spread of any disease, including the flu. The CDC is the official recorder of flu outbreaks in the U.S., and offers a free app, FluView, to help users track flu outbreaks in their state throughout flu season.  Flu Near You is a website that relies on voluntary participation from the general public to help track the flu in real-time. The website also provides a map of reported flu cases, a vaccine finder and the latest flu news. The CDC’s Twitter account is also a helpful resource to stay on top of the latest information about this year’s flu.

-Other elpful apps. Sickweather is a free illness crowdsourcing community, providing real-time alerts whenever users enter a ‘sick zone’. Be alerted for flu, Norovirus, pink eye, whooping cough and 20 other illnesses. Doctors on Demand allows users to connect with board-certified physicians and doctoral-level therapists online over live video from a smartphone or tablet. Users can chat with a doctor virtually 24/7, including nights and weekends. Home Remedies+ is an app that gives users access to the most common alternative remedies or herbal treatments.

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