Colds and Influenza (which is more commonly referred to as "flu") bring with them a chorus of sniffs and sneezes as people across the UK battle through illness. While flu outbreaks come as no surprise as temperatures drop, it has been reported that cases are at their highest level on record, and that the current rate of flu is worse than at any point last winter.
This year’s flu season has been challenging for the NHS, with reports of outbreaks across several hospitals putting more strain on resources. This also comes at a time when A&E waiting times are at their worst since records began in 2004. It’s not just hospitals who take the hit when it comes to flu – businesses can also suffer the consequences of being under-staffed due to absent employees.
It is important to remember that preventing outbreaks is a shared responsibility for all employees. The role of businesses and facility managers in preventing the flu virus is helping to ensure cleanliness is front-of-mind for all.
What is ‘flu’?
The flu is a viral infection caused by various strains of influenza viruses. It can be caught at any time of the year, but is more common during the winter period, partly because we spend more time indoors when it is cold and wet, and therefore viruses can spread more readily.
Despite many associating the flu with the cold weather, the main source of flu is other people. The flu virus is present in the mouth and nose of people who have the flu. When you cough or sneeze you launch viral particles into the air in thousands of tiny droplets of saliva and mucus – making it easy to catch in confined spaces such as public transport.
Advocating good hand hygiene
Did you know that one in four office workers admit to not washing their hands after visiting the washroom? This means offices are particularly vulnerable to harbouring and spreading pathogens. These are typically passed from person to person through indirect contact with shared items such as door handles, printers, keyboards, computer mice or kitchen items.
A little extra care in hand hygiene will go a long way in helping to reduce this risk. In its simplest form, hand washing is a three-step process; wash, dry and sanitise. Equipping washrooms with adequate sinks, soap dispensers and hand drying options will help to encourage each visitor to wash and dry their hands before returning to their workstation. People rarely wash their hands for long enough (20-30 seconds is recommended) and do not always dry their hands properly, which is important as damp hands spread up to 1,000 times more bacteria than dry hands.
Automatic taps and dryers, as well as no-touch soap, paper towel and sanitiser dispensers mean the user does not have to make direct contact with the unit in order to operate them. Using technology like this will not only help to modernise your washroom, it should greatly reduce the risk of cross contamination and with it the spread of illness throughout the office.
Extra vigilance with specialist cleaning
While a regular cleaning regime can help to keep infection under control, outbreaks can still occur, even in warmer weather. An outbreak of an infection such as influenza needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible, to minimise the risk. For this reason, regular deep cleans are also important, as the process can tackle any difficult and hazardous cleaning requirements safely, legally and discreetly. This involves conducting a thorough clean by moving all furniture away from the walls to make sure no areas are being missed from the cleaning routine. Ideally, deep cleans should be carried out at least twice a year by a professional cleaning company.
Ultra Low Volume (ULV) disinfectant fogging is a method of disinfection, carried out by a specialist, which enables the treatment of large areas in a short space of time. It works by generating a mist of disinfectant, which settles on top of, underneath and on the sides of objects, soft furnishings, furniture and hard-to-reach areas, offering maximum surface area coverage.
Fogging is often used to combat infections, as it has a fast-drying time and can significantly reduce the number of pathogens present when compared to manual surface cleaning alone. It can also be used in conjunction with both routine and deep cleaning, to ensure all areas are fully sanitised, keeping employees and visitors safe.
Don’t let flu become an office burden this winter. By ensuring a good cleaning regime and employee hand hygiene you will have the preventative measures in place to stop the flu in it tracks.