Consumer Reports: Flu Prevention 101: Wash your hands

The CDC estimates that at least 17 million people have gotten the flu this season and that 13,000 to 22,000 deaths have been reported. Getting vaccinated and avoiding contact with those who are sick are two steps you can take to prevent the spread of viral and bacterial infections. But one of the most important steps is also one of the simplest: washing your hands regularly. Consumer Reports tells you how to do it correctly.

First, wet your hands with clean running water, turn off the tap, then apply a generous amount of soap and begin rubbing them together.

Rub in between your fingers and around each finger, and massage the tips of your fingers against your palms. Also remember to wash your nails. Scrub the top of your hands and your wrists for at least 20 seconds. If you don't have a clock nearby, sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice while hand-washing.

Soap and friction help lift dirt, grease, and germs-including disease-causing ones-from your skin so that you can easily rinse them off under running water.

Dry your hands with a paper towel or air-dry them. Use the paper towel to close the faucet.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that washing with soap and water is the best way to reduce germs on your hands. But if soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.