DIV13/36: Get Ready To Avoid The Flu This Year (22 October 2013)

Issue Date: 22 October 2013
Ref: DIV13/36

Get Ready To Avoid The Flu This Year
Pre-empt Seasonal Illnesses By Attacking The Common Causes Of Infection

Businesses can reduce the impact of seasonal illnesses such as flu and Norovirus by acting now to prevent infections entering and spreading in the workplace. The most effective approach is to combine effective hand hygiene with routine disinfection of frequent touch surfaces. This helps to prevent and limit the impact of any outbreak before it has the chance to disrupt business continuity, impact on employees and customers, or adversely affect the reputation of the business.

The annual flu season often peaks during January and last year was no exception. The level of infection according to official sources (ie reported to the HPA by doctors) was broadly the same as normal years but only a relatively small proportion of illnesses are reported because most people do not go to the doctor when they become ill. This means it is likely that many hundreds of thousands of people suffered from the illness during the peak period. For most it will have been an inconvenience that led to an uncomfortable couple of days and some time off work or school. The impact on the frail and weak can be much more severe, as evidenced by rises in death rates during the same period. Norovirus also peaks during the winter months but can be a risk all year round. These and other illnesses tend to peak during winter because people spend more time indoors in closer proximity which makes it easier for infections to linger and spread.

The most common way to catch or pass on an illness such as flu or Norovirus is by hand-to-hand contact or by touching a contaminated surface. People generally understand the need for good personal hygiene but, even so, a significant number (anything from 30 to 90 per cent, depending on which study you believe) fail to wash their hands after visiting the toilet. Given that washing one’s hands has been shown to halve the risk of catching a stomach bug it is cavalier not to do so.

Whatever the truth, hand hygiene products need to be effective and easy to use. Although washing with soap and water can be effective, any business or individual who wants the additional assurance of disinfection will need to use a specialist product such as Diversey Care Soft Care Med H5. This alcohol-based hand rub is especially formulated for frequent use in demanding applications such as health care but also provides excellent protection against infections in any kinds of business. The product can be supplied for use in conventional wall-mounted washroom soap dispensers or in a variety of portable dispensers that can be positioned throughout a building for convenient “on demand” use.

In the most intensive applications, people who need to wash or disinfect their hands with the greatest frequency might need some help to maintain the condition of their skin. For this Diversey Care offers Dermasoft Cream, a reconditioning and moisturising hand cream that is ideally suited to regular use.

Along with hand hygiene the other significant factor in the spread of infections is touching contaminated surfaces. Some studies have suggested that in hotel rooms, for example, around 35 per cent of all surfaces can be infected if the room has been occupied by somebody with an illness. It therefore makes sense to focus routine and daily cleaning tasks on the areas and surfaces that are likely to be touched the most often, such as light switches, door knobs, office equipment and furniture. Telephone handsets used to present a major risk of infection but perhaps now less so as they disappear from the workplace. There is no room for complacency however because, according to some studies, around one-in-six mobile phones is contaminated with e-coli, a common cause of stomach upsets. Another report suggested that the average mobile phone has 18 times more bacteria on it than a toilet seat.

The primary requirement for hard surface disinfection when aiming to prevent multiple infections is broad-spectrum performance. This means that the disinfectant is effective against a wide range of different organisms. This is important because it is impossible to know which infections are present on any given surface. A disinfectant that protects against as many common infections as possible will therefore help keep cleaning processes simple and effective. This is precisely the main benefit of Diversey Care’s Oxivir Plus. Its unique formulation contains Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide (AHP) as its active disinfectant. It can be used frequently on almost any hard surface because it is non-corrosive, unlike comparable disinfectants containing chlorine. It is Woolsafe approved which means it can also be used on fabrics, carpets and upholstery for general cleaning and to remove body spillages that often contain the organisms that cause illnesses.

The dual approach of effective hand hygiene and regular disinfection of frequent touch points will help prevent the introduction and spread of seasonal illnesses in the workplace and among guests and customers for businesses in the service sector. Prevention is always better than cure which means it makes sense to stock up on simple but effective products that help introduce and maintain the highest standards of infection prevention - and learn how to use them - before the seasonal illnesses arrive.