Southern California schools and public buildings are being hit by flu and other illnesses at this time of year and the custodial staff responsible for keeping these facilities in top shape know that the work they do plays an important role in the battle to prevent further spread of these illnesses.
Schools, office buildings and any place where large groups of people gather indoors are ripe for spreading cold and flu germs. These facilities need to be cleaned well, especially as the weather turns colder and this means stepping up the usual cleaning regimen to fight the germs and bacteria before they wreak their havoc. An area that is usually cleaned once a day on a usual basis, should be cleaned at least twice a day during cold and flu season.
Cleaning and disinfecting are part of a broad approach to preventing infectious diseases in schools and public buildings. It means increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting high-touch areas and cleaning crews should be trained to follow the directions for the cleaning agents they use to ensure they’re used safely and effectively.
Know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing
Cleaning removes germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap or detergent and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection. Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects by using chemicals. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can lower the risk of spreading infection. Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by public health standards or requirements.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are touched often
Typically, this means daily cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands-on learning items, faucet handles, phones and toys. Standard procedures often call for disinfecting specific areas of the school or public building, like bathrooms, locker rooms or kitchens.
Simply do routine cleaning and disinfecting
Cleaning and disinfecting actions should match the types of germs you want to remove or kill. Studies show that the flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for up to 48 hours after being deposited on a surface. Standard cleaning and disinfecting practices are sufficient to remove or kill them.
Clean and disinfect correctly
Follow label directions for all cleaning products and disinfectants. Start by washing surfaces with a general cleaner to remove germs. Rinse with water and follow with an EPA-registered disinfectant to kill germs. Read the label to make sure it states that EPA has approved the product for effectiveness against influenza A virus.
If a surface is not visibly dirty, you can clean it with an EPA-registered product that both cleans (removes germs) and disinfects (kills germs) instead. Be sure to read the label directions carefully, as there may be a separate procedure for using the product as a cleaner or as a disinfectant. Disinfection usually requires the product to remain on the surface for a certain period of time, such as letting it stand for 3 to 5 minutes.
Use disinfecting wipes, such as the Clorox Healthcare Multi-Surface Cleaner Disinfectant Wipe, on electronic items that are touched often, such as phones and computers. Pay close attention to the directions for using disinfecting wipes. It may be necessary to use more than one wipe to keep the surface wet for the stated length of contact time. Make sure the electronics can withstand the use of liquids for cleaning and disinfecting.
Educate Students & Employees on Hygienic Practices
During flu season it is vital that students and employees are made aware of how to avoid the flu virus. This comes through promoting the importance of hygienic practices, such as routine washing of hands. Posters should be displayed on proper hand washing techniques in bathrooms for all to see. Staff should be advised to wipe down their workstations, telephones, door handles and any other surfaces that could be a hot spot for germs.
Maintain a Sanitized and Stocked Office
When the flu hits, stock the school or public building with the necessary hygienic supplies such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, tissues and antibacterial soap to combat the spread of germs. More frequent cleanings of highly trafficked areas like bathrooms, kitchens or break rooms, dining areas, locker rooms, door handles and desks will also lessen the risk of exposure.
Handle waste properly
No-touch waste baskets should be placed where they are easy to use. Promote that disposable items are to be thrown into the trash immediately after use. Empty waste baskets daily, or more often as needed.
Follow these simple guidelines and cut down on the spread of flu and illness in our Southern California schools and public buildings.