University of Alabama at Birmingham

Cast your ballot, not your germs

Newswise — As Americans cast their ballots for their respective primary elections on Super Tuesday, some voters may be wary of being in crowded rooms or touching items used by potentially sick people. This is especially true with flu activity still considered widespread by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 48 states and as the spread of COVID-19, also known as novel coronavirus, increases.

Fortunately, University of Alabama at Birmingham experts are able to provide tips to keep your germs and everyone else’s at bay.

The CDC recommends general precautions to prevent the spread of viral respiratory infections, such as frequent handwashing, covering your cough and avoiding large gatherings if possible.

Polling locations across the country employ different methods of casting ballots, like using pens, felt-tip markers or touch screens — all hotbeds for germs.

COVID-19 is thought to spread mainly from person through close contact with someone infected or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled, where it travels to the lungs.

“This has become dangerous because this is a first-of-its-kind type of coronavirus, and all humans do not have immunity built up to fight it,” said Rachael Lee, M.D., UAB Medicine’s health care epidemiologist and assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

How can you protect yourself?

If you do decide to exercise your civic duty, Bryan Combs, Ph.D., a nurse practitioner with the UAB School of Nursing, says to exercise precautionary measures to keep your germs and everyone else’s from spreading.

“I would think of going to the polls the same way I would as if I were going to the airport,” Combs said. “You are going to be in lines, and people will be sharing and touching the same items.”

Combs says do the same things you would do if you were traveling:

  • Make sure you have antibacterial hand sanitizer, and use it before and after you touch something that is commonly used, like a pen or a screen.
  • Make sure to cover your mouth if you cough, and do not talk too closely to other people.

If you prefer to use wipes as opposed to hand sanitizer, Combs says to make sure to use antibacterial wipes to wipe off commonly used items before and after you use them. Also, make sure to wipe your hands before and after you use commonly used items.

For more information about COVID-19, visit UAB’s official resource page.




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