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Keywords:

  • infection control;
  • influenza;
  • respiratory infections;
  • viral infections

ABSTRACT The purpose of this state-of-the-science review was to identify strategies and household-level interventions for public health nurses to help prevent the acquisition and spread of viral upper respiratory infections (URI) in the community. Even though viral URI are a major global economic and social problem, surprisingly little research has been conducted to attempt to prevent them or reduce their transmission, probably because URI (with the exception of epidemic influenza) are generally considered to be mild and self-limited. Based on the research to date, public health nurses can use several promising strategies for prevention: (a) provide more tailored educational messages regarding preventive strategies such as vaccination, hand hygiene, spatial separation of infected household members, avoidance of antibiotics to treat viral URI, and environmental cleaning (e.g., for toys or other shared items), which are delivered personally rather than passively (e.g., pamphlets placed in a waiting room); (b) use each patient encounter in any setting to encourage influenza vaccination for relevant risk groups; (c) encourage use of alcohol hand sanitizers by household members during the cold and flu season; and (d) provide opportunities for skill development for adult and child household members (e.g., cover your cough, when to seek care or an antibiotic).