SAVAGE, Minn. - Cover your cough. Stay home when you are sick. Get rest. Is there any other magical equation to stop the spread of flu? The power of flu prevention is in Bernadette Bien's hands at Savage's Hidden Valley Elementary. She's been the school nurse for 21 years, and the school's expert hand washer.
Bien was recently named the Minnesota School Nurse of 2012, but now with the spread of flu, relishes another title.
"We kind of have that hat on of a detective, checking on what germs are in our building," said Bien, who is known as "Nurse Bernie" to students.
Wiping out undercover risks, Bien says, begins with the most basic ingredients: warm water and soap.
"It doesn't need to be antibacterial, just a plain liquid soap is better. Bar soap can harbor germs yet but that is better than nothing," said Bien. She also says you can use hand sanitizer as a last resort, only when you are not near soap and water. She tells students to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, the time it takes to sing a song like "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
Bien also shows students the invisible risk of how germs get into your body using Glo Germ, a glowing lotion that simulates how germs cover hands. A black light shows how germs are caked on unwashed hands, easily transmitted to your mouth or to others.
A Minnesota Department of Health study from 2006 showed when daycare workers washed the hands of kids of hands every morning, and disinfected areas their parents touched, they cut the number of illnesses at the daycare in half.
No mystery to Bien. She says anyone can handle basic precautions, the flu's best defense.
"That's really important. Water, soap, friction, at least 20 seconds of friction, and then drying your hands," she said. "Don't forget to get between your fingers the back of your hand. Germs love to hide there."
The Minnesota Department of Health says hand washing is the single most important means to stopping the spread of infection. Read more on the state's hand washing hygiene tips.
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