Janitor’s Guide to Fighting the Flu in Schools.
Fall is in full swing. Many schools and colleges are bracing to see just how bad the flu season will be this year. Schools and colleges want to reduce the impact. Healthy students learn better, and healthy teachers teach better. Janitors play a considerable role in preventing the spread of infectious diseases. There are various cleaning tactics when it comes to fighting influenza. Do you change your cleaning practices during cold and flu season, or do you wait to see how bad it gets?
The Impact of Influenza
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that the 2017-2018 flu season had the highest rate of sickness since the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. Between October 2017 and May 2018, over 48 million people had influenza. Nearly 80,000 of those people died. Older adults and young children were the most affected. Still, many school-aged children got sick. Schools in 14 states closed down due to sickness. For example, Hilda Lahti Elementary School in Oregon closed for a week when an outbreak hit 43% of students as well as several teachers and staff members.
Understanding the Flu
The influenza virus causes an infectious respiratory illness. The flu is not the same thing as a cold. Flu symptoms come on suddenly and are more severe than a cold. Also, it can develop into more severe illnesses such as pneumonia or bronchitis.
- Fever over 100.4 F (38 C)
- Aching muscles
- Chills and sweats
- Dry, persistent cough
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nasal congestion
- Sore throat
- Children may have vomiting and diarrhea
How the Flu Spreads
As someone who is cleaning to prevent the flu, one of the most important things to know is how the virus spreads. Students and teachers get sick from skin-to-skin contact, contaminated surfaces, saliva, or airborne respiratory droplets. Thus, cleaning should focus on high touch points where people are most likely to contact the virus, such as doorknobs, light switches, and toilets.
Fighting the Flu
The cleaning staff is the first line of defense when it comes to fighting illness. If the janitors get sick, then the best defense is weakened or absent. Cleaning professional contact high traffic areas where the flu virus can live up to 48 hours on hard surfaces. Custodians should take precautions to prevent themselves from getting sick.
- Get vaccinated every year
- Cover your cough
- Wash hands often
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth
- Sick staff members should stay home or wear a disposable mask
The Right Cleaner for the Job
Janitors are critical to fighting the virus. Proper cleaning techniques help contain the disease and prevent it from spreading. Some people think all cleaning products are interchangeable. However, each type does a unique job. Let’s look at four categories of cleaning products.
- General cleaners help remove dirt from a surface. Some germs get wiped away, but they are not killed.
- Sanitizers reduce the number of bacteria on a surface.
- Disinfectants kill infectious fungi, bacteria, and viruses on hard surfaces.
- Virucides destroy viruses on objects in the environment. They are useful when fighting specific infections.
Janitor – Cleaning to Prevent the Flu
Be wary of products that claim to clean and disinfect in one application. Pre-cleaning a surface is necessary before disinfecting. Sanitizers and disinfectants must contact the germs to be effective. Dirt and debris block the cleaning product from reaching the surface underneath. You spray the disinfectant and wipe away the soil, but some contaminants may remain.
Focus on high-contact touch points when using sanitizers, disinfectants, and virucides. Frequently treat table and desk surfaces, chairs, doors, sinks, and toilets. When sanitizing, allow surfaces to air dry following the manufacturers recommended dwell time. Give the product time to do its job.
Spread the word around your school about the best practices to avoid spreading the flu. Encourage instructors to disinfect high-touch surfaces as needed in the classroom. Remember, janitors are the first line of defense for keeping students and teachers healthy this flu season.
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