How’s your facility looking this flu season? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this year’s flu season is shaping up to become the worst the United States has seen in a decade, with levels tipping to “epidemic” proportions. Studies show that the flu costs businesses approximately $7 billion per year due to the nearly 111 million work days lost. Norovirus cases are also on the rise this season, and the CDC reports that foodborne norovirus illness accounts for $2 billion in lost productivity and healthcare costs each year.
This means cleaning professionals who work in office buildings, hotels or other public places need to take precautions to help control the spread of the flu and norovirus in their facilities.
Kim LaFreniere, Ph.D., associate research fellow at the Clorox Professional Products Company, offers cleaning professionals four infection control tips, provided below.
- Choose the right products. Studies show influenza viruses can survive on surfaces for up to eight hours, so it is important to use products that are effective against them. Cleaning with soaps or detergents and water physically removes germs, but does not kill them. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. According to the CDC, several types of disinfectants are effective against the flu including chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and quaternary ammonium-based cleaners. No matter which product you use, it is important to always read the product label to ensure that it is EPA-registered to kill the influenza A virus and norovirus.
- Disinfect high-touch surfaces often. Objects and surfaces that are frequently touched such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, keyboards, faucets, and phones need to be disinfected at least once a day. Specific germ-prone areas such as bathrooms should also be given more attention.
- Clean and disinfect regularly. The flu and norovirus can spread when people touch infected surfaces and then touch their eyes, mouth or nose. Flu viruses are fairly easy to kill when using the appropriate disinfectants as part of the cleaning and disinfecting process. Norovirus however, is tougher to kill as very few particles can cause infections and it is highly contagious. Always remove visible soil from surfaces, followed by targeted disinfecting.
- Educate cleaning staff and other employees about the flu and norovirus. The CDC recommends that businesses encourage employees to get a seasonal flu vaccine and discourage sick employees from coming to work. In addition, instruct employees to wash their hands regularly with soap and water especially after emptying waste baskets, touching used tissues or using the bathroom.