Many Floridians Don't Properly Cover Coughs And Sneezes

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Coughs And Sneezes

Floridians should wash their hands often, cover their cough or sneeze with an arm or tissue, and stay home when they are sick.

A new statewide campaign unveiled today by the Florida Department of Health encourages Floridians to make a routine habit of these hygienic behaviors.

Using soap, water, tissue and your arm can go a long way in helping slow the spread of harmful viruses and illnesses.

"We're urging Floridians to adopt these behaviors more universally to protect their own health and make the state a less fertile ground for illnesses to be transmitted from person to person," Dr. Bill Tynan, medical director of the Florida Office of Public Health Preparedness said.

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According to a recent statewide survey examining the hygienic behaviors of Floridians, only half of the people surveyed said they cover their coughs or sneezes with their arm or a tissue. The survey was conducted in March by Marketing for Change, a Tallahassee-based social marketing firm. A random telephone sample of 800 people across the state about their present behavior found:

Three-quarters of Floridians believed covering coughs or sneezes with a tissue or an arm could prevent the spread of viruses, like the flu, but only half reported always covering this way.

One third of the sample said that, sometimes, they don't cover their mouth at all when they cough or sneeze.

Men -- especially young men, ages 18 to 34 -- are less likely to perform these behaviors than their female counter-parts. For example, while about 60 percent of women say they always cover their cough or sneeze with an arm of tissue, only 42 percent of men do.

National data from the American Society for Microbiology shows that four out of five people wash their hands after using the restroom. These statistics are the basis for the campaign, which urges Floridians to "Talk to the Fifth Guy" who fails to perform proper hygiene. In television and radio ads airing statewide, the "fifth guy" is seen and heard infecting his office with germs.

"We know that many people wash their hands and cover their coughs, so we're leveraging natural social pressure to get everyone to consistently do these things," Dr. Tynan said. "After seeing these commercials with a guy walking around holding a urinal, sneezing on his co-workers food and coughing in everyone's face, I don't think anyone is going to want to be the fifth guy. I expect Floridians will be more conscious of their hygiene and how it can affect others."

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