Colds and the flu are running rampant this time of the year and understanding how to stop the spread before it impacts your school or business can save time, money, and health.

There are an estimated 3-5 million cases of the flu around the world every year. The flu may be just an inconvenience to a busy schedule, but it also could truly be a determinant of life or death. In those 3-5 million cases of the flu per year, 250,000- 500,000 flu-related deaths occur. Not only is it extremely dangerous, the flu can also result in inefficiency and becoming nonproductive in schools, organizations, and businesses. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the common cold and flu result in 22 million school days lost per year with economic losses of $25 billion. Of that $25 billion, $16.6 billion is correlated to job productivity loss and $8 billion is attributed to absenteeism. Clearly, students, and the workforce exposed to the flu and the common cold suffer in more ways than just health. So, what can you do as an organization to limit the spread of these highly infectious illnesses?

The flu virus

How do these viruses spread?

Most of the spread of influenza and the common cold is caused by large and small droplets that spread to other individuals through sneezes, coughing, and even talking. Those droplets are sent into the open air, where people within a range of 6 feet are at risk of contact. Colds and the flu can also be spread by an infected person touching differing objects and surfaces. High-touch areas like elevator buttons, handrails, and doorknobs are most at risk of fostering contaminated bacteria from an infected person. When someone else touches those high-touch objects and then touches their nose, eyes, or mouth, they have likely transferred the virus to their body.

How to clean potentially infectious surface and limit the spread

Effective cleaning is, of course, the easiest and best way to limit to spread of viruses. To do this in an effective way, it is important to understand the differences between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting.

Cleaning: removing germs and dirt from the area. Cleaning is done with soap or detergent and water. This physically removes the germs from those areas and surfaces. The takeaway of cleaning is that cleaning doesn’t kill germs– it removes them which lowers their numbers, thus reducing the risk of the infection spreading.

Disinfecting: killing germs from the area. This is done through the use of chemicals to kill germs in that area. The key to this is that is disinfecting doesn’t clean dirty surfaces, but killing germs can help reduce the risk of spreading the infection.

Sanitizing: lowering the number of germs to a safe level (set by public health standards/requirements). This is done through cleaning or disinfecting to lower the number of germs.

Understanding how these methods work reduce the amount of exposure to those infectious viruses and bacteria. When it comes to those high-touch surfaces, it is important to clean and disinfect them to substantially reduce the number of pathogens. Again, cleaning removes the dirt and soil that may foster the viruses and disinfecting will kill any pathogens that remain. Public health officials also set standards for schools to ensure effective and safe cleansing that is consistent among schools.

Here is a list where the CDC offers their recommended cleaning and disinfecting practices to limit the spread of the flu and the cold:

  1. Clean routinely
  2. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily
  3. The flu and cold viruses are fragile, so routine cleaning and disinfecting practice is enough to kill/remove them
  4. Follow label instructions on cleaning and disinfecting products to ensure safe and effective use
  5. Choose disinfectants that claim will kill cold and flu viruses
  6. Cleaning with an EPA-registered product that both disinfects and cleans simultaneously can save time and money
  7. Disinfecting wipes can be used on high-touch electronic products like phones and computers
  8. Use products safely by paying attention to hazard warnings and directions on product labels
  9. Don’t mix cleaners and disinfectants unless labels specifically say it’s safe
  10. Be sure that any and all custodial staff understand how to safely and effectively use the cleaning and disinfecting products

When it comes to cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing surfaces in schools or organizations, it is important to remember how each method works and how to use them in a safe way. Having a consistent and reliable source of cleaning and disinfecting products allows cleaning staff to better understand the best way to use the products. FlexPAC offers a variety of cleaning and disinfecting products that can help any business or school limit the spread of potentially harmful bacteria and viruses.

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