According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this year’s flu season has become the worst the U.S. has seen in a decade, with levels tipping to epidemic proportions in several states.
Studies show that the flu costs businesses approximately $7 billion per year due to the nearly 111 million lost work days.
And, it’s not just the flu: 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 that cleaning professionals who work in office buildings, hotels and other public places need to take precautions to help control the spread of the influenza virus, norovirus and other pathogens in their facilities.
To help prevent the spread of the flu, norovirus and other wintertime ailments, there are the following four tips:
1. 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 it does not kill them.
Disinfecting, on the other hand, works by using chemicals to kill or otherwise deactivate germs on surfaces and objects.
According to the CDC, several types of disinfectants are effective against the flu, including chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, quaternary ammonium-based cleaners and other registered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
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.
2. 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 like restrooms should also be given more attention and may require more frequent disinfection.
3. Clean and disinfect regularly
The flu and norovirus can spread when people touch infected surfaces and then touch their eyes, mouth or nose.
The influenza virus is 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.
To help ensure efficacy, always remove visible soils from surfaces, followed by targeted disinfecting.
One-step, ready-to-use (RTU) disinfecting products with hydrogen peroxide formulations are available in sprays and wipes and are safe to use on most hard, nonporous surfaces.
Some of these product options can kill the influenza A virus in 30 seconds, but be sure to read the label of any product before using it.
Such products with specific third-party validated kill claims are also effective against norovirus.
Some sprays kill norovirus in one minute and certain wipes kill it in three minutes, but it is important to read the product label to ensure it is EPA-registered to specifically kill norovirus.
4. Educate cleaning staffs and other employees
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 restroom.
For more information about flu and norovirus prevention tips and product solutions, visit www.CloroxProfessional.com.