Flu season is on its way, and that means it’s time to prepare to rigorously clean professional and shared spaces in an effort to combat the spread of the flu. Killing the influenza virus requires a customized approach for different spaces, depending on their common touch points and trafficked areas.
It’s critical to keep shared spaces sanitized during peak flu season as potentially deadly flu viruses can live on surfaces for 24 hours1—more than enough time to turn an office space or classroom into a full-blown hazard zone. Right now, schools, hospitals and offices should take a lesson from last year’s high count of flu-related deaths which totaled 80,000 fatalities2, by taking early precautions.
In this guide, janitorial staff and housekeeping services for schools, healthcare facilities and office spaces will be reminded, and in some cases informed, about how to help keep individuals healthy and safe this year. Before we dive into the specifics though, we want to take a brief moment to remind you about the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting when it comes to cleaning spaces for the flu virus.
Sanitize vs. Disinfect
While sanitizing is an effective all-around method for regular cleaning routines, peak flu season calls for more drastic methods: enter the art of disinfecting.
Disinfecting means killing all bacteria, viruses and fungus in a given area or on a given surface. While sanitizing will leave flu viruses on a surface, prone to infecting individuals in a given space, correct disinfecting will kill all influenza viruses effectively, reducing the viruses’ ability to infect students, staff, patients and office workers. When possible, disinfection cleaning techniques should be used when attempting to kill the flu and other infections.
How to Kill the Flu Virus in Schools
Schools are a hot bed for the spread of viruses like the flu; not only is an entire student body in constant contact with each other, but they share touch points that thousands of people come into contact with on a daily basis. The risk only multiplies when you consider trying to contain a flu outbreak at a college or University. In these environments, students not only share classrooms, cafeterias and common spaces that see thousands of students per day, but they also live on campus, inhabiting dormitories and bathrooms which are prone to causing widespread flu outbreaks when just one tenant becomes sick.
In this guide, we’ll be focusing on educational spaces, meaning classrooms, locker rooms and shared bathrooms. Classrooms feature many shared touch points; desks, door handles and counter space are all surfaces where the flu virus can live for more than long enough to pass from student to student.
Disinfect commonly trafficked surfaces with a disinfecting product, taking care to follow the instructions on the bottle or packaging in order to maximize the effectiveness of the product. Wiping down heavily trafficked areas like desks, door handles, keyboards and counter tops and allowing them to air dry will effectively kill the flu germs living on a surface. If you don’t have a name brand disinfectant on hand, you can easily make one by mixing bleach and water; mix one part liquid chlorine bleach with three equal parts water, or mix ½ cup bleach to 1 quart water if you’re using a spray bottle for easy application.
This bleach solution can also be used for mopping in classrooms, bathrooms and locker rooms. To clean a locker room, disinfect any visibly soiled floors, locker fronts and benches. Mop the floors with a water/bleach solution and disinfect toilets and sinks in adjoined bathrooms. These steps can also be applied to other bathrooms present in the school; disinfecting toilets, sinks and door handles with a water/bleach mix is an effective way to kill the flu virus.
How to Kill the Flu Virus in Hospitals
There’s no room for error when it comes to mitigating the flu virus, especially in hospitals and other healthcare facilities that should be a safe haven for people that have fallen victim to the illness.
Beyond just keeping already-infected patients safe, the flu can be especially deadly for patients that are suffering from other preexisting conditions which result in a compromised immune system. With that in mind, healthcare facilities must be diligent about keeping the flu virus at bay.
Healthcare facility cleaning staff should already have hospital cleaning procedures and methods in place; the flu isn’t the only nasty bug to protect against, after all. However, when peak flu season arrives, extra steps have to be taken, starting with cleaning waiting rooms and examination rooms that have the highest probability of coming into contact with the flu virus.
Exam rooms must be cleaned daily after hours; padded couches or examination tables must be disinfected, as well as counter tops and sinks. Any single-use sheets or pillow cases are to be disposed of and replaced with sterile or clean ones. Waiting rooms must also be cleaned regularly, with floors being disinfected with clean mops, and furniture and counters being disinfected and left to air dry. If a patient becomes sick and vomits, the vomit should be covered in sawdust (this dries the vomit and makes it stick together) and disposed of. The area should then be thoroughly disinfected and allowed to air dry.
For patient’s rooms, linens must be replaced with fresh ones, while used or soiled linens should be professionally laundered in an OSHA-compliant laundering facility. Floors, walls, toilets and door handles must all be disinfected, even if the flu virus wasn’t present. Hallway floors and touch points should also be periodically disinfected in order to re-mediate the spread of the flu in healthcare facilities.
How to Kill the Flu Virus in Offices
We already covered how to disinfect the dirtiest shared spaces in your office, but it bears repeating: keeping an office clean and disinfected during peak flu season is crucial to maintaining a healthy and productive staff. The break room should be the focus of cleaning efforts, as it’s the most commonly shared space, and features touch points where virtually every employee will interact with at least once daily. Disinfect counter tops, sink faucets, knobs and refrigerator handles; they’re heavily trafficked surfaces that are seldom cleaned and a great place for the flu virus to hide and thrive.
If the break room floor is tile or linoleum, it should be mopped and disinfected and carpets should be vacuumed regularly.
When it comes to personal work spaces such as desks or cubicles, the surfaces should be disinfected regularly, especially if coworkers come into work sick. Keyboards must also be disinfected and left to air dry. Mice and mouse pads are another overlooked area that should be disinfected, as well as monitors, speakers and any other commonly touched instruments that are present in a personal work area.
General Steps & Wrapping Up
Aside from disinfecting through cleaning, there are general steps that individuals present in schools, healthcare facilities and offices should take to prevent the spread of flu. Hand washing is one of the most effective methods to prevent the spread of flu, as well as using hand sanitizer on a regular basis.
Posting signage about the effectiveness and need for employees to wash their hands regularly, or providing kiosks with hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes for people to clean their hands, has proven to be extremely effective in work spaces. Beyond self-care, keeping heavily trafficked areas clean and organized outside of peak flu season is also a necessary preemptive step to take.
To have your most-heavily trafficked areas disinfected to be free of the flu virus or to just periodically be cleaned to a professional shine, contact a professional commercial cleaning corporation today.
- How long do bacteria and viruses live outside the body?, NHS
- Flu broke records for deaths, illnesses in 2017-2018, new CDC numbers show, Washington Post