Preventing the Spread of Respiratory Illness

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Use the following recommendations from CDC to help protect yourself and our community from respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19, flu, and RSV.

Ways to prevent yourself and those around you from getting sick

Stay up to date with immunizations

  • Immunizations help protect your body from viruses and severe illness. There are immunizations for COVID, flu, and RSV. 
  • Visit the CDC website or talk with your doctor about which immunizations are recommended for you.
  • Where to find your shot: 
    • Make an appointment with your doctor’s office, local pharmacy, or visit to find a provider near you.
    • We offer immunizations to children and adults who meet certain criteria. 

Practice good hygiene

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
  • Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands; use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol when handwashing is not an option.
  • Teach children the correct way to wash their hands.
  • Clean high-touch surfaces (doorknobs, handrails, countertops, etc.) on a regular basis.

Increase the amount of clean air

Improving ventilation can reduce the number of virus particles in the air. Circulating fresh outdoor or filtered air indoors helps keep virus particles from concentrating inside. Do this by:

  • Opening doors and windows and using fans
  • Properly using and maintaining heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems
  • Using portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners
  • Moving activities or gatherings outside

Stay home if you’re sick

Learn more about steps to take if you are sick with symptoms of respiratory illness. 

Extra steps you can take to protect yourself and others

Take these steps to further protect yourself and those around you from getting sick from respiratory viruses. Using the following methods is particularly important when:

  • You or the people around you were recently exposed to a respiratory virus, are sick, or are recovering.
  • You or the people around you are at a greater risk of getting seriously sick.
  • We are experiencing high or very high levels of all respiratory illnesses in our community. Our Respiratory Illness Dashboard can help you decide whether to take additional precautions. 

Wear a mask

  • Masks are a great tool to reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.  When worn by a person who’s sick, masks reduce the spread of the virus to others. 
  • Certain types of masks can also protect the wearer from breathing in these germs. Make sure you choose a mask that offers the best protection while also fitting comfortably.

Distance yourself from others

When possible, do not go near someone who has respiratory illness symptoms. Try to avoid crowded areas where you may not be able to maintain physical distance.

Get tested

Testing can help you determine if you are currently infected with a respiratory virus and make choices for what to do next. If you are at a greater risk of getting seriously sick, testing right away when you feel sick can help you determine if you should talk to your doctor about treatment options

Rapid tests, such as at-home COVID tests, can be used for screening before attending gatherings. You can pick up COVID testing kits at our East Washington and Atrium locations, while supplies last. Your local library may also have kits available; call ahead to check. You can also buy tests online or in stores. 

Many at-home COVID tests had their expiration dates extended; check this FDA list to see the new expiration dates. 

Prevention Strategies in Community Settings

Community organizations and facilities should encourage their staff and visitors to use the above prevention strategies. Below are some additional steps your facility can use to help protect our community:

  • Have easily accessible and well-stocked handwashing and sanitizing stations available and provide instructions for use.
  • Develop flexible sick leave and telework policies for staff.
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces.
  • Ensure proper ventilation at your site by maintaining your HVAC systems and opening doors or windows when appropriate.
  • Provide free, high-quality masks at your site when we are experiencing high or very high levels of respiratory illnesses in our community. Our Respiratory Illness Dashboard provides a summary of what is going on in Dane County. 
  • Organize immunization clinics at your site.

Outbreaks of respiratory illnesses at your site should be reported to us. See our Disease Reporting page for more information. 

Check out the CDC’s Respiratory Virus Guidance FAQs if you, your staff, clients, or patrons have more questions. 

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