Although it seems as though flu season should be winding down by this time of year, a facility manager can never really know when his/her building is in the clear from the threat of an outbreak. For example, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in March 2016 the number of states reporting widespread flu activity was still increasing. In fact, in the week ending March 12, a total of 40 states from across the country and Puerto Rico reported widespread flu activity. Influenza isn’t the only infection that threatens the building occupants every day and many of these infections aren’t seasonal. However, when an outbreak occurs, it’s usually up to facility managers and custodial crews to tackle the problem.
While we hope the worst of flu season is behind us, it’s important to keep in mind that an outbreak among building occupants can still occur any time of the year and in any type of facility.
The first step is to identify the pathogen that is the culprit, so that you are able to find the right product and process to disinfect. Pathogens like norovirus and enterovirus are more difficult to kill with disinfectants. You have to make sure the chemical you choose for disinfection is capable of killing the specific pathogen you are targeting. When in doubt go with the product that has the capability to kill norovirus, because that gives you a higher chance of disinfecting it.
Many disinfectants are rendered useless without the proper application. The best process is a clear and defined two-step process. First, remove soils first where microbes can hide. Second, sanitize or disinfect for the pathogen of concern. When you are ready to disinfect the affected area, dwell time (also referred to as contact time) is paramount. All EPA-registered disinfectants are labeled with a dwell time. This is the amount of time the product needs to be actually wet in order to kill the pathogen. Products will often naturally dry before 10 minutes are up. Look for a product with five minute or less contact time, because that ensures it has enough time to kill the germs you are attacking.
Prevention is always the best measure to inhibit an outbreak in your facility. Promoting personal hygiene, such as hand washing and covering mouths and noses when coughing and sneezing, is the best way to make sure illness does not spread in your building. Also proactive daily cleaning of high-touch surfaces like desktops to remove organic soils that can host and harbor pathogens. The key to any illness is to avoid transferal. If you can break a link in the chain, then you have a chance in stopping an outbreak.
EcoCare can employ all of these tasks and more in your facility today. We employ green cleaning techniques and are very successful in disinfecting offices. We currently service the Waco, Austin and San Antonio areas.
(Credit: Cleaning & Maintenance Management Magazine)