Effective, professional cleaning can help slow the spread of the flu in all types of facilities, including office buildings and most especially in schools. We should view proper cleaning as the second line of defense against getting the flu and having it spread in a facility. Being vaccinated is still considered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and most public health facilities as the first line of defense.
With that said, the following is a Q&A about cleaning and the flu. The more we know about the flu, how it spreads, and how effective cleaning can prevent it, the healthier indoor facilities will be.
Do all touchable surfaces need to be disinfected to help prevent the flu?
Not necessarily. Cleaning removes germs, viruses, and many forms of bacteria. While it does not kill these pathogens, by simply removing them, we are helping to slow the spread of infection.
So, do we need disinfectants to kill the flu virus that may be on surfaces?
Along with proper cleaning, many times, an effective sanitizer is all that is necessary. A sanitizer reduces the number of germs on a surface to safe levels. For the most part, we should use disinfectants, which kill all pathogens on a surface, sparingly and only as and when needed.*
If we do use sanitizers and disinfectants, is there a particular way to use them?
Definitely. Here is what we need to know. Surfaces must be cleaned first and then sanitized or disinfected. As we know, the cleaning process removes soils. This makes it easier for the sanitizer or disinfectant to kill germs on the surface. Also, many cleaning professionals are too quick to wipe surfaces after using a disinfectant. We teach all of our cleaning workers to adhere to the product’s dwell time. In most cases, disinfectants must dwell on a surface for about five minutes for them to work effectively.
How do you know if the flu virus or germs are on a surface?
The most effective way is to have surfaces swabbed by laboratory personnel and then tested. However, this is a slow process. Some cleaning contractors use adenosine triphosphate (ATP) rapid monitoring systems. These systems, which are easy to use and relatively inexpensive, indicate where potential pathogens may be on a surface. Note: They do not identify pathogens. ATP responds to organic matter on a surface. A high reading should be viewed as “red flag” that pathogens may be present.
Are there some surfaces that should be cleaned more often to prevent the spread of the flu?
Undeniably. These are what we call high-touch areas. We all know about door handles and light switches, but high-touch areas can include the controls on water fountains, keys on a vending machine, copy machine controls, even the tops of commonly used chairs. These areas need more frequent cleaning during the flu season.
Is there something else we should know about the flu and cleaning that is often overlooked?
During flu season, we tend to use facial tissues more frequently. The used tissues are often placed in trash containers. So, two things we need to know that are often overlooked is that anyone touching those containers, especially the cleaning professionals, should wear gloves. Also, those trash containers should be cleaned regularly. The flu virus can live up to 24 hours on a surface. If the germs are in the trash container or on any other touchable surfaces for that matter, it allows the germs to spread to other surfaces and many other people.
*The disinfectants label will identify which pathogens will be eliminated with the specific product.
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