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Prairie Fare: Fight Flu-causing Germs with Good Hand Hygiene

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
The CDC has referred to hand washing as the “single most effective way to prevent the transmission of disease."

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“I want a new backpack. I’ve had the other one since kindergarten!” my soon-to-be sixth-grade daughter exclaimed.

“I think you are exaggerating,” I replied, recalling the pink backpack with wheels she had in kindergarten.

“Well, I’ve had it a really, really long time. Have you noticed the broken zipper? I need new mechanical pencils, too,” she said.

“Think of reusing your backpack as being environmentally friendly,” I noted.

For some reason, she didn’t appear impressed with my suggestion.

We’ll be off to the store soon searching for all the items on her school supply list. We also will buy a really cool backpack appropriate for someone in middle school.

With a growing worldwide flu pandemic, parents may be wondering if they should add hand sanitizers to their children’s backpacks. Many schools are adding dispensers filled with hand sanitizer.

Researchers have shown that each hand may carry 10,000 to 10 million bacteria. Sneezing or coughing into your hands and then touching inanimate objects, such as doorknobs, can lead to the spread of germs from person to person.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the H1N1 flu virus has continued to cause illness even during the usually flu-free summer months. The CDC recently recommended four ways to help you and your family keep from getting sick with the flu at school and at home:

  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder, not in your hands.
  • Stay home if you or your child is sick for at least 24 hours after there is no longer a fever or signs of a fever (without the use of fever-reducing medicine). Keeping sick students at home means that they keep their viruses to themselves rather than sharing them with others.
  • Get your family vaccinated for seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 flu when vaccines are available.

The CDC has referred to hand washing as the “single most effective way to prevent the transmission of disease.” A 20-second scrub with plenty of soap and water is the usual recommendation. However, sometimes soap and water are not readily available.

Hand sanitizers increasingly are being recommended for the times when hand-washing facilities are not available. Alcohol can kill bacteria and viruses. Effective alcohol-based gels usually contain ethanol or isopropanol, or both. Experts recommend that hand gels contain at least 60 percent alcohol.

Bottom line: In the kitchen, people have ready access to a sink to wash their hands. Using a hand sanitizer is not an effective substitute for hand washing during food preparation.

In other settings, such as schools or workplaces, a dime-size dollop of hand sanitizer rubbed into the hands for 30 seconds can be used to clean your hands.

As school begins and family life speeds up, here’s an easy recipe to pop in a slow cooker. Wash your hands first, though.

Barbecued Beans

1 pound of lean ground beef

1 1/2 c. chopped onion

1 (16-ounce) can baked beans, undrained

1 (16-ounce) can kidney beans, drained

1 c. ketchup

4 tsp. prepared mustard (or to taste)

2 tsp. cider vinegar

1/4 tsp. salt (optional)

Brown the meat with onions in a nonstick pan using medium heat. Drain any excess fat. Spray slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Combine all the ingredients in the slow cooker. Cook on low for six to eight hours or on high for two hours.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 320 calories, 8 grams (g) of fat, 40 g of carbohydrate and 8 g of fiber.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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