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Infection Control

Tips For Combating A Potential H1N1 Resurgence

February 01, 2011
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Since the start of the H1N1 pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about how this influenza virus was sensationalized by the media.

But, the American public may not understand how deeply H1N1 has affected both U.S. and world communities since 2009.

While the affects of the pandemic weren''t as severe in the U.S. as anticipated, the global H1N1 death count did reach 17,700 by April 2009, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Experts now speculate on the possibility of some degree of resurgence of the virus for the 2010 flu season.

With these warnings in mind, it is important to remember that H1N1, as well as all strains of influenza, doesn''t only affect victims during the "flu season."

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has continued to identify new cases occurring over the course of the year.

The H1N1 risk is still there and continues to pose a serious health threat to affected individuals.

Recognizing the H1N1 danger and taking appropriate action is an important part of why we were able to combat the H1N1 pandemic so effectively over the course of 2009.

While H1N1 is a particularly virulent strain, influenza in general is one of the top pathogenic killers in our society.

Instead of resting on our laurels after managing the 2009 pandemic, we should use the tremendous resources we have built up to prepare for the potential resurgence during the upcoming flu season in 2010.

A recent study estimated that in the U.S., annual influenza epidemics result in approximately 600,000 life-years lost, three million hospitalized days and 30 million outpatient visits, resulting in medical costs of $10 billion annually.

According to this study, lost earnings due to illness and loss of life amounted to over $15 billion annually and the total economic burden of annual influenza epidemics amounts to over $80 billion.

Also, in the U.S., the flu season usually accounts for 200,000 hospitalizations and 41,000 deaths.

Because the mortality rate of the H1N1, or "swine flu," is lower than common flu strains, this number was actually lower in 2009.

Taking steps to protect against the spread of the flu will also help prevent the spread of other dangerous pathogens that are readily transmittable in our indoor environments.

Pathogens such as norovirus, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile (C. diff), Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella and Shigella are present in our everyday lives, and we can reduce the risks of becoming infected by practicing good hygiene.

Because cold and flu viruses can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours, one of the most crucial strategies for preventing the spread of the flu is proper surface disinfection.

Disinfection is important in reducing harmful germs, but it must be performed on an ongoing basis.

In the workplace, workstations, desks and break rooms — areas where employees share equipment, phones or eating surfaces — are key areas for germ contamination and transmission.

Commercial facilities of all types should set a regular aseptic cleaning schedule or preventative treatment cycle for their facility.

In addition to regular hygienic cleaning, critical control points — also referred to as high-touch contact points — are critical areas of focus during daily cleaning procedures.

Facility cleaning should focus on areas of higher touch frequency, including doorknobs, keyboards, light switches and phones.

These areas should be cleaned daily and intermittently swiped with disinfectant wipes to control germ buildup and transmission between cleanings.

Hand hygiene programs are also critical components in preventing influenza outbreaks.

Implementing a hand sanitization program in your facility can help reduce the role skin contact plays in spreading germs.

A program of this kind could be as simple as installing hand sanitizer dispensers in certain areas of the building or it could be part of a larger educational campaign that uses e-mail, posters and even hand hygiene classes to keep hand cleanliness at the front of everyone''s mind.

The combination of surface disinfection and hand hygiene creates a hygienic firewall that has been proven to be effective in reducing the risk of transmission of dangerous germs like the flu.

Finally, employing hygienic cleaning strategies is the most effective and measurable way to ensure you are doing everything within your power to help reduce the risk of the spread of influenza germs.

This kind of cleaning protocol makes use of proper disinfectants, up-to-date soil and matter removal cleaning technology and techniques that heavily reduce the role cross-contamination can play in cleaning process.

Peter J. Sheldon, Sr., a Certified Building Service Executive (CBSE) brings over 18 years of experience in the building service contractor industry to his position as vice president of operations of Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System. Sheldon works closely with the Coverall sales and operations teams to spearhead initiatives that further the company''s strategic objectives and help the company develop the most efficient and innovative cleaning processes available. Sheldon is among the elite group of building service professionals to qualify for the CBSE designation.

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