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Make Health a Part of Your Thanksgiving

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is encouraging all Rhode Islanders to make health a part of their holiday this Thanksgiving.

"Thanksgiving is a wonderful day to gather with friends and family, and to reflect on the blessings in our lives. This year, we're asking everyone to take a few additional steps to help themselves stay safe," said Interim Director of Health Utpala Bandy, MD, MPH. "With several respiratory viruses circulating in Rhode Island – including flu, RSV, and COVID-19 – this is particularly important. A few basic prevention measures can go a long way in helping you and your family have a healthier holiday."

Prevent the spread of respiratory viruses

- Stay home if you are sick. Do not host others if you are sick.

- Wash your hands with soap and water regularly.

- Cough or sneeze into your elbow.

- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.

- Consider getting tested for COVID-19 if you plan to visit someone who is at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Information about testing is available at covid.ri.gov.

- Get your flu shot. Everyone older than six months of age should be vaccinated every year. For information on where to get a flu shot, see health.ri.gov/flu.

- Be up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations. For many people, that means getting a booster. For information on how to get vaccinated against COVID-19, see C19vaccineRI.org.?

Food safety

- Wash your hands before and after preparing or eating food. This is especially important if you have been handling raw meat.

- Thoroughly wash counters, cutting boards, and utensils with warm, soapy water after they touch raw turkey. Use a separate cutting board for raw turkey and other raw meats if possible.

- Washing your turkey before cooking is not recommended. Poultry juices can spread in the kitchen and contaminate other foods, utensils, and countertops.

- Raw poultry can contaminate anything it touches with harmful bacteria. Follow the four steps to food safety—clean, separate, cook, and chill—to prevent the spread of bacteria to your food, family, and friends.

- Thaw your turkey safely. Thaw turkey in the refrigerator, in a sink of cold water (change the water every 30 minutes), or in the microwave. Avoid thawing foods on the counter. A turkey must thaw at a safe temperature to prevent harmful germs from growing rapidly.

- Cook raw turkey thoroughly to kill harmful germs. Turkey breasts, whole turkeys, and ground poultry, including turkey burgers, casseroles, and sausage, should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165F to kill harmful germs.

- Debone the turkey as soon as possible and refrigerate leftovers at 40F or colder as soon as possible and within two hours of preparation. Slice or divide big cuts of meat, such as a roast turkey, into small quantities for refrigeration so they can cool quickly. Reheat all leftovers to at least 165F before serving.

- Cooking stuffing separately from the turkey in a casserole dish makes it easy to be sure it is thoroughly cooked. If you cook stuffing in the turkey, put the stuffing in the turkey just before cooking. With either cooking method, use a food thermometer to make sure the stuffing's center reaches 165F. Learn more about how to prepare stuffing safely.

- If you plan to bake, do not eat raw dough or batter, and use pasteurized eggs in dishes that call for raw eggs.

Additional health tips

- If you are going to be drinking, consume alcohol in moderation.

- If you are going to be drinking and traveling, make sure that you have a designated driver.

- Put down your phones, get away from the television, and do something interactive with family and friends. Good examples are playing a board game, playing cards, or taking a walk.

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