Cold and flu season is upon us, and some medical experts are already dubbing it the worst flu season in history.
There's been an abnormally high number of influenza cases this season because the main strain, the H3N2 virus, is stronger than the ones from the previous years. The virus is widespread in at least 46 states, according to the CDC, and organizations like the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are already calling for a special vaccine that to fight the deadly virus.
Public health officials haven't declared it a pandemic, and if everyone exercises the necessary precautions, it may never reach that level.
Prevention is key when it comes to the flu, and the best way to do so is by getting the shot and washing your hands as often as possible. It is also important to know which surfaces you touch on a daily basis house this nasty virus, so you can take the proper steps after you come in contact with them.
So here are the top 5 of the dirtiest surfaces that could give you the flu, according to American Family Care (AFC):
Writing instruments, like pens, harbor a lot of bacteria, especially if you let other people use them. So if you find yourself borrowing a pen from another person or using a communal one at the bank or store, don't forget to use hand sanitizer or wash your hands once you're done.
Handshakes are a friendly gesture, but they could put your health in danger. If you really can't avoid them, try not to touch your face or food before sanitizing or washing your hands. If you're familiar with the person you're greeting, a solution would be to give them an elbow bump. I guess an awkward greeting beats contracting the flu.
The top three dirtiest spots may take you by surprise....
3. Gas pumps
If you own a vehicle, pumping gas is something you can't avoid. Since dozens of people touch the same pumps every day, they tend to be riddled with germs. In order to protect yourself from getting sick, sanitize your hands before you start up your car again, and wash them thoroughly as soon as you reach your destination.
Flu germs don't die easily, and they tend to remain on surfaces for upwards of eight hours, which is why it's easy to contract the influenza virus after using an ATM. Imagine all the germs you come in contact with by touching the keypad on an ATM machine?
Thankfully, there's an easy way to avoid getting sick after a trip to the bank. AFC suggests using your knuckles to punch in the numbers because there's a less chance of you touching your food or your face with your knuckles as opposed to your fingers.
We don't immediately think about cellphones or other mobile devices as germ-carrying surfaces, but they sit at the number one spot. We touch our cellphones all day long after coming into contact with other dirty surfaces, yet we still answer calls by placing the phone by our ear.
Experts recommend wiping down cellphones and other portable devices as often as possible with special disinfectant wipes made just for this purpose. It's also a good idea to invest in a good pair of earphones with a built-in microphone so you can make calls hands-free.
Dr. Jeff Goudreau told FOX 4 that if you feel symptoms of a cold or flu, including headaches, coughs, and achiness, it's important not to go to work or school. Instead, go see a doctor to get diagnosed, especially if you have a higher than normal fever.
Have you had the flu this season? Let us know in the comments!