GIVE THE GIFT OF HEALTH THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
According to the CDC, influenza activity begins in the months of October and November, and peaks between December and February. Annually, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized due to complications from the flu and the majority of those are over the age of 65. In order to reduce the spread of the flu during the holidays and long after, experts assert flu vaccinations are still the number one way to prevent proliferation of the flu.
TOP 5 FLU FIGHTER TIPS FOR A HEALTHY HOLIDAY SEASON
- Get a Flu Vaccination
- Wash Your Hands, Often
- Sneeze into Your Elbow
- Stay Home from School or Work When You're Sick
- Encourage Everyone, Especially Those 65+ to Get Vaccinated
Flu activity peaks in December. During this time, most people face a higher risk of contracting the flu because they’re exposed to more people and places during the holidays. With a higher level of exposure from these holiday gatherings, flu vaccinations are crucial in fighting the spread of the flu each season and a great way to give the gift of health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu vaccinations for everyone – especially those who are considered “high risk”: children six months of age or older, those 65 years or older and those who have diabetes or chronic heart conditions.
MARIANNE GRAVELY, USDA FOOD SAFETY EXPERT - WAYS TO TRANSPORT, SERVE AND STORE YOUR HOLIDAY DISHES
KEEP YOUR FOOD FROM BEING A HOLIDAY GRINCH WITH THESE FOOD SAFETY STEPS
The holidays are a time for celebrating with family and friends during office parties, holiday buffets and potluck dinners. But improperly prepared or mishandled foods can also be a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria that causes foodborne illnesses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service has food safety tips to ensure that the foods you share with your friends and family keep everyone in the holiday spirit.
Transporting Your Holiday Dish:
If you're transporting a meal from one location to another temperature is important. When transporting hot dishes, wrap them well to keep them hot by carrying them in an insulated container or hot food carrier. Use the stove, oven, or microwave to reheat food you have transported to 165°F upon arrival as measured by a food thermometer. When transporting cold foods, use a cooler with ice or freezer packs. Be sure to store food in watertight containers to prevent contact with melting ice water, and carry your cooler in the passenger compartment of your car, not in the trunk.
Serving Your Meal:
When serving your meal, keep foods out of the "danger zone" by keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If you are serving hot foods on a buffet, keep the foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers or warming trays. Make sure they stay at least 140°F or above. Cold foods should be kept cold by nesting serving dishes into bowls of ice. You can also keep your full servings of cold food in the refrigerator, and only place small amounts of the item out at a time to make sure your guests are getting properly chilled food. It is important that cold foods are held at 40°F or below.
After the fun is over, discard all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, and casseroles left at room temperature longer than 2 hours. Immediately refrigerate or freeze remaining leftovers in shallow containers. USDA's FoodKeeper app provides more details about how long leftovers can be stored, with storage guidance on nearly 600 items and cooking tips for meat, poultry, seafood and eggs.
Consumers can learn more about key food safety practices at Foodsafety.gov, follow @USDAFoodSafety on Twitter and FoodSafety.gov on Facebook. Consumers with questions about food safety can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or chat live with a food safety specialist in English or Spanish at AskKaren.gov, available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday.