The coronavirus pandemic has hit home the importance of taking measures to prevent the spread of disease. Healthy Food Guide editor Jenny de Montalk explores the simple ways we can help keep infectious disease of all kinds at bay, beyond the COVID-19 crisis.
1 Prevention is better than a cure
The most important defence we have against infectious disease is to get our immune system ready.
This means staying up to date with all our available immunisations. Immunisation protects us against harmful infections by using the body’s natural immune response to build resistance to certain pathogens.
Some vaccines, such as that for influenza, need to be given each flu season, whereas others may be given twice or more, such as that for measles, mumps and rubella, which is usually given at 12-15 months old then, again, at 4-6 years old.
Of course, if you have missed any of your immunisations you can speak to your healthcare provider about getting them, no matter what your age.
Additionally, you can help keep your immune system in peak condition by leading a healthy lifestyle.
This means eating a varied, plant-based diet (this can include small amounts of meat, fish and chicken), exercising regularly, limiting alcohol, avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.
2 Practise good hygiene
The simplest way to avoid catching and spreading infections is by regularly and thoroughly washing and drying your hands.
Do this before eating or handling food and after using the toilet, coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, gardening, outdoor activities, contact with animals and looking after sick people.
Also, cover coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue or use the crook of your arm.
Regularly clean household surfaces, especially frequently touched ones such as door handles, light switches, table and bench tops, taps and toys.
Open your windows regularly, to keep your house well ventilated.
3 Stay at home if you’re sick
We often feel pressure to show up at work or school even if we’re unwell, but it’s important to resist.
You’ll be doing yourself a favour by being able to rest and get better faster and others a favour by keeping your germs to yourself at home.
While you’re home, try to keep at least 1 metre away from other household members, to help prevent spreading any infection to them.
4 Practise safe sex
Using condoms during penetrative sex and condoms or oral dams during oral sex is your best bet against sexually transmitted infections. If you have a long-term sexual partner, make sure you are both tested for STIs before commencing any sexual contact without condoms or oral dams.
5 Prepare food safely
Wash and dry hands before handling food. Clean utensils and scrub chopping boards between preparing raw and cooked food.
Cook minced meat and sausages thoroughly (meat should not be pink) and poultry until juices run clear. Reheat leftovers until steaming hot throughout.
Cover food. The only time food should be uncovered is when you’re eating it.
Chill food. Keep raw and cooked food separate in the fridge. If you’re cooking outside, use a chilly bin and frozen pad to keep food cool.
Article sources and references
- Prevent the spread of infectious disease. Ministry of Healthhttps://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/environmental-health/infectious-disease-prevention-and-control/prevent-spread-infectious-disease
- Are your immunisations up to date? Ministry of Healthhttps://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/healthy-living/immunisation/are-your-immunisations-date
- Immunisation. Ministry of Healthhttps://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/preventative-health-wellness/immunisation
- New Zealand Immunisation Schedule. Ministry of Healthhttps://www.health.govt.nz/our-work/preventative-health-wellness/immunisation/new-zealand-immunisation-schedule
- PRIORIX Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine live NEW ZEALAND CONSUMER MEDICINE INFORMATIONhttps://medsafe.govt.nz/Consumers/CMI/p/Priorix.pdf