How to minimize the flu in your buildings during the 2019-2020 flu season. As the new year began, all 50 U.S. states reported instances of the flu. The overwhelming majority have reported widespread cases.
Flu season in the U.S. begins in October and can last until as late as May. The biggest spike typically occurs in February, but the Center for Disease Control projected last year that flu activity could peak well before then. Respiratory viruses such as the rhinovirus (common cold) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) also circulate during flu season and in December a Seattle elementary school closed after over 100 students and faculty became infected with Norovirus. These outbreaks increase the urgency for the prevention and control of all viruses this season.
It may not be possible to completely protect a building or its occupants from contracting the influenza virus, but there are steps that building, and operations managers can take to minimize the flu from spreading in their buildings.
Minimize the Flu
Prevention is Key
The best way to avoid the negative impact of influenza in your buildings and on staff is through prevention. Encourage employees to get flu shots. Vaccinations are available at healthcare facilities, schools, municipal buildings, and pharmacies. Onsite vaccinations or allowing employees time off to get vaccinated will reduce the impact of the flu and guard against lost productivity due to employee illness.
Making employees aware of the causes, symptoms, and how the virus spreads increases their chances of staying healthy during flu season. The influenza virus spreads from person to person and by touching infected areas such as doorknobs, handrails, and countertops and then touching the eyes, mouth, or nose. An infected worker can transfer the virus to another worker from as far as six feet away. This happens through the transmission of tiny droplets of water discharged by coughing, sneezing, and even speech. Being aware of how easy it is to spread the flu makes employees more mindful of prevention.
The degree to which an office can limit contact between employees varies by company, but meetings conducted via conference call or video chat minimize the flu from spreading throughout the work environment. Employees who can work from home should do so. People with the flu are contagious for one day before experiencing symptoms and from five to seven days after becoming ill. Employees with the flu should not come in contact with coworkers or the illness may spread through entire teams and departments.
Provide Protective Equipment
The flu virus gets transferred through the eyes, nose, and mouth. Protecting these openings minimizes the flu and likelihood of infection. With the flu affecting between five and 20 percent of the population, healthcare facilities see a wide number of cases. This increases the risk of contamination among workers. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities reduce the risk by wearing protective equipment such as gloves, masks, and gowns. Custodial staff who come in contact with contaminated waste should have gloves and surgical masks for protection.
Increase Cleaning & Sanitation
Cleanliness and sanitation are always on the minds of facilities managers, but flu season requires extra diligence. The months between October and May need increased attention paid to routine cleaning and disinfection of office spaces. Shared phones and computer equipment as well as bathrooms, kitchen areas, and break rooms should get cleaned and sanitized with more frequency. Special attention to high-touch areas such as railings, door handles, and countertops is also needed.
Schedule Disinfection Services
An effective way to minimize flu is with comprehensive disinfection services like those provided by Pure Air Control Services. Our PURE-Decon room disinfection service uses an EPA-validated hydrogen peroxide and silver solution to kill 99.9 percent of germs. The service uses a dry mist that leaves no residue and permeates hard-to-reach areas missed by other topical cleaners. PURE-Decon eliminates viruses then dissipates into the air after application.