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Germs such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi can cause colds, flu, food poisoning, and other health problems. Taking these steps to stop the spread of germs in your home can help keep you and your family healthy.


What can I do to keep my hands clean?

Wash your hands frequently with warm soap and water or use a hand sanitizer gel. When washing with soap and water, rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces firmly for 20 seconds-about the time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. Rinse your hands well under running water and dry them using a paper towel. Use the paper towel to turn off the faucet. When using a hand sanitizer, apply it to the palm of one hand and rub your hands together. Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until they're dry.


Help stop the spread of germs by coughing or sneezing into a tissue and throwing it away. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow. Try not to use your hands because you can spread germs when you touch objects or other people. If you must sneeze into your hands, wash or sanitize them right away. Also wash or sanitize your hands after handling food, using the bathroom, changing diapers or tending to a sick person, and handling pets.


What can I do to keep my home clean?

In your kitchen:


* clean your sink with hot soapy water after use; you can also sanitize your sink with a solution of bleach and water (1 tsp of bleach in 1 quart of water) or scrub with a bleach-containing cleanser regularly.


* wipe off all countertops and tables with hot soapy water or a household disinfectant before and after preparing foods. Consider using paper towels; if you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.


* replace your kitchen sponge often.


* use different utensils for raw meat and vegetables or fruit.


* clean and sanitize cutting boards and throw them away if deep grooves develop. Wooden boards can harbor bacteria and are harder to clean. Wash plastic cutting boards in hot soapy water after each use or sanitize them in the dishwasher. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a different one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.


* never put cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat, poultry (or their juices), seafood, or eggs.


* refrigerate or freeze meat, eggs, and other perishable foods as soon as you get them home. Never let raw meat, poultry, eggs, cooked food, or cut fruits or vegetables sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours before putting them in the refrigerator or freezer.


* never defrost food at room temperature, and always marinate food in the refrigerator.


* use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked to a safe temperature. Make sure there are no cold spots in food when you're heating it in a microwave oven.


* thoroughly wash all vegetables and fruits under running hot water, including those with skins and rinds.


* use very hot water to rinse dishes after washing and allow them to air dry or dry them with a paper towel.


In your bathroom:


* wipe all surfaces with a disinfectant regularly.


* after brushing your teeth, rinse your toothbrush with tap water and let it dry out between uses.


* never share toothbrushes, and replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.


* replace towels regularly and wash them in hot water.