AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – The flu claimed the lives of 910 people in the United States in 2019, according to the CDC. In addition to the flu-related deaths, there were an estimated 16,000 hospitalizations, 800,000 visits to physicians and 1.7 million confirmed flu cases during the 2019-2020 flu season. This time of year is a prime time for the flu and other diseases to easily spread. However, there are several things people can do to help to fend off sickness.

Helen Jones, an Alabama Extension human nutrition, diet and health regional agent serving Bibb County, said according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the best way to prevent seasonal flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

“In addition to getting vaccinated, good health habits, like washing your hands and having a balanced diet, can help stop the spread of germs and prevent illnesses,” Jones said.

Hand Washing

Viruses spread through touch, making hand washing extremely important. Jones said people must thoroughly wash their hands to remove and prevent the spread of germs to others.

“Sing the ABC song to yourself twice while washing with soap and water to make sure your hands are clean,” she said.

More information about hand washing is in the Extension publication Food Safety: It’s in Your Hands!

A Balanced Diet

Proper nutrition not only increases the functionality of the human body, but also increases its ability to fight off infection. A diet that offers a variety in color, texture and cooking methods often helps people get the nutrients they need to fight the common cold and diet-related chronic diseases.

Physical Activity

Physical activity includes anything that requires movement. For maximum health benefits, Jones recommends exercising at least 30 minutes each day. Aerobic activity (cardio) encompasses anything that increases a heart rate. This includes walking, jogging, running and riding a bike. Muscle-strengthening exercises also help to build overall health. This form of exercise includes weightlifting, resistance training and exercises like yoga or pilates.

Adequate Sleep

Believe it or not, getting the proper amount of sleep can do wonders for a person’s overall health. According to the CDC, sufficient sleep is not a luxury, but a necessity and people should think of it as a vital sign of good health. Inadequate sleep not only affects the body’s ability to function properly, but also decreases the body’s ability to fight infection. Getting eight hours of sleep a night helps maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Managing Stress

Stress is a normal part of life, but the way people manage it can create or worsen health problems. Proper stress management rounds out a healthy lifestyle and helps to lower the risk of the common cold and other illnesses. Management of stress all depends on the willingness of the person being affected. The Extension publication Managing Stress: Guide for Understanding Stressful Situations is a great resource for learning how to deal with stress.

More Information

For more information about ways to prevent illnesses this winter, visit

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As the Bibb County Coordinator for Alabama Extension, Matthew D. Hartzell coordinates the implementation of all Extension programs in Bibb County in many program areas. These program areas include 4-H and Youth Development, Animal Sciences, Food Safety and Quality, Forestry, Wildlife and Natural Resources, Human Nutrition, Diet and Health, Family and Child Development, Family Resource Management and Workforce Development, Commercial Horticulture, Home Grounds, Gardens and Home Pests, Farm and Agribusiness Management, and Community and Economic Development. Hartzell has served in his current position for 12 years and held primary program assignments in Community and Economic Development, Human Nutrition, Diet and Health, and Forestry Wildlife and Natural Resources.