5 Ways to Prevent Flu in Commercial Buildings

Each year an average of 5% to 20% of the United States population gets the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Business people fearing h1n1 virusMore than 200,000 of those people are hospitalized because of flu-related complications, and the CDC estimates that over the 30-year period from 1976 to 2006 between 3,000 and 49,000 people died from complications associated with the flu.

The flu virus is spread by the droplets made when people with the flu sneeze, cough or talk. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of others, or a person may contract the flu by touching an object, such as a door handle that has the flu virus on it.

Those with the flu virus can spread it as far as 6 feet by coughing or sneezing. Someone with the flu can begin to infect others one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days after becoming ill.

People with the flu may experience any or all of the following symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue.

The flu season is unpredictable. The length, timing and severity varies each year. Typically, the CDC expects the flu season to begin as early as October, and while it commonly peaks in the United States during January or February, the flu season can last as late as May.

Hopefully, the flu season will soon be over and the risk of the illness will decrease substantially, but in the meantime there are some steps facility managers can take to prevent the transmission of flu in their buildings.

The flu costs businesses about $7 billion each year because of the 111 million work days lost due to flu-related illnesses, according to Buildings.com, a website devoted to smarter facility management. The financial consequences can be harsh, especially in years when the flu season is particularly severe.

Here is what Building.com recommends your facility’s cleaning professionals do to help prevent the flu from spreading:

  1. Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly. Flu viruses are easy to kill, but if you don’t keep surfaces clean and disinfected, you give the viruses the opportunity to infect your building’s occupants.
  2. Focus cleaning on high-touch surfaces. Objects that are frequently touched, including desks, doorknobs, phones, faucets and keyboards, require daily disinfecting. Also focus cleaning efforts on germ-prone areas such as bathrooms.
  3. Select the right products. The CDC recommends using certain disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide, chlorine bleach and quaternary ammonium-based cleaners to effectively kill the flu virus. You can also read the product’s label to verify it is registered by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) for killing the influenza A virus.
  4. Use products as directed. Follow the instructions as provided on the disinfectant’s label. The manufacturer may tell you the length of time the product needs to remain on the surface for it to properly kill pathogens.
  5. Educate your employees about flu prevention. Discourage sick employees from coming into work, and remind employees to wash their hands regularly, particularly after using the bathroom, touching used tissues or when emptying waste baskets.

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