The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reports that 35 states are now experiencing widespread influenza and 20 are reporting high levels of influenza-like illness. What makes this flu season different is that for the first time since the 2009 pandemic, the predominant strain is the H1N1 virus which hits young and middle-aged adults the hardest.
And when it hits, it doesn’t just mean the individual with the flu is down for the count. Studies show that the flu costs businesses approximately $7 billion per year due to the nearly 111 million work days lost, and this year, the prevalence of illness among working-age adults could have even greater financial consequences for businesses.
This means cleaning professionals who work in office buildings, hotels, or other public places need to take precautions to help prevent the spread of the flu in their facilities.
- Clean and disinfect regularly. The flu can spread when people touch infected surfaces and then touch their eyes, mouth, or nose. However, flu viruses are fairly easy to kill when using appropriate products as part of the cleaning and disinfecting process, but it must be done regularly, especially during flu season. Remember to always remove visible soil from surfaces, followed by targeted disinfecting.
- Target high-touch surfaces. 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 with an EPA-registered disinfectant. Specific germ-prone areas such as bathrooms should also be given more attention.
- Choose the right products. 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.
- Use products correctly. Remember, the best results are achieved when disinfectants are used correctly. It is important to always refer to the product label and follow manufacturer’s instructions for use and contact time, or the length of time the disinfectant needs to remain wet on the surface to properly kill pathogens. Different products have different contact times for killing certain pathogens.
- Educate cleaning staff and other employees about personal flu prevention steps. 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.