Although we are certainly hearing a lot about H1N1, or swine flu, in our industry, including what chemicals and products are needed to fight the disease, we are not hearing much about how and when to use these products.
For our industry to make a significant difference and help minimize the potential impact of the swine flu epidemic, we need a successful integration of four components:
- What cleaning chemicals, tools and equipment to use
- How to use them
- When to use them
- When to adjust how and when these products are used based on threat level changes.
Most areas of the United States are now entering stage two and some areas are entering stage three of the epidemic.
In reference to cleaning and disinfecting procedures, the infectious threat level should define the products, procedures and frequencies used.
Stage two is when a contagious disease or virus is present in a community or area, but not in a specific building.
Neutral and light-duty all-purpose cleaners should be replaced with products that have the required cleaning efficacy, pH, parts per million (PPM) and the necessary stated pathogen kill claims.
There should also be an increased focus on cleaning and disinfecting floors, other horizontal surfaces and cross contamination contact points, in this order.
The order is based on the size of bacteria reservoirs: Floors are not only the largest bacteria source, but also the average person has as many as 50 direct and indirect contacts with floors every day, making these areas key transmission points.
Stage three is more specific and more extensive.
It refers to a contagious disease or virus that is present in a facility.
Many colleges and universities are now in this phase, including Emory University in Atlanta, which ironically is near the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters.
Cleaning should be "ramped up" with floors cleaned and disinfected first, then walls, counters, fixtures and high touch-point areas, followed by the floors once again when leaving.
A pre-clean should be performed and an appropriate disinfectant applied.
Additionally, cleaning equipment, including the wheels of equipment and carts, must be cleaned and disinfected.
At this time, you should be implementing stage two and stage three procedures.
Further steps our industry should take:
JanSan chemical manufacturers should promote and advise their clients as to which disinfectants are proven (Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registered or, in Canada, Health Canada registered) effective at killing the H1N1 pathogen that causes swine flu (i.e., Influenza A)
Distributors and DSRs should be instructed on how to properly use these disinfectants so that they, in turn, can properly train facility service providers and administrators
Cleaning professionals must understand the health challenge we are facing and the key role they play in preventing the spread of this disease. They must begin cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces, including floors, thoroughly as instructed on a regular basis.
Our industry can meet this challenge and, just as with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), play a significant role in minimizing the impact of H1N1.
Challenges like this is when our industry can truly shine.