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3 Keys to Maintaining Healthy Facility Service Operations During the Cold & Flu Season

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

For nearly two years now, COVID has been a major focus for businesses and facility leaders, not to mention employees and customers.

And while COVID-19 will likely remain a top concern heading into 2022, facility managers shouldn’t forget about cleaning programs and services that target more traditional cold and flu-causing germs. In fact, health experts anticipate a much more severe cold and flu season this year as communities have now fully re-opened and students have returned to school. In addition to these infectious pathogens, children’s hospitals around the US have seen an uptick in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) since last summer (1).

All of this points to facility leaders needing to remain vigilant when it comes to cleaning and disinfection as even the common flu can have major impacts.

The Burden of the Flu

While COVID-19 has caused a once-in-a-generation global pandemic, the flu annually takes its toll. During the 2019-20 flu season, prior to COVID, the CDC estimates the flu caused:

  • 38 million flu illnesses – about the same as the population of California
  • 400k flu hospitalizations – about the same as the population of Miami, FL
  • 22k flu deaths – enough people to fill Madison Square Garden

This year, infections are expected to return to something closer to these more normal levels. It’s also important to remember that the impacts of the cold and flu are far-reaching: an estimated 60 million school days are lost each year due to the common cold, while poor health costs U.S. employers $530 billion annually and a total of 1.4 billion workdays of absence and impaired performance (2,3).

What Contributes to Infection Spread?

Unlike COVID-19, which was found not to spread through surface transmission, common pathogens that cause infections can live on surfaces for quite some time and should be accounted for as part of any cleaning program. For example, common cold and flu viruses can live on surfaces for 24-48 hours, while “Staph” and Norovirus can live days to weeks. In the most extreme case, C.difficile, which causes severe diarrhea and colitis, can live up to five months on surfaces (4).

The most common way for germs to spread is through person-to-person contact. Contaminated hands can transfer viruses up to five additional surfaces, according to research.

Maintaining Healthier Operations

So how can facility managers better manage through cold and flu season while keeping focus on COVID? Here are three keys to success:

  • Increase focus on cleaning and disinfection – Regular cleaning and disinfection is still required to combat the spread of traditional cold and flu-causing germs.
  • Surface cleaning is essential – Whether it is an office building, shopping center, or school campuses, people have a heightened awareness of cleanliness as a result of the pandemic. Proper surface cleaning and disinfecting can mitigate a host of pathogens known to spread on surfaces.
  • Invest in a professional cleaning program – Outsourced facility service programs deliver effective results administered by trained professionals. For example, chemicals are applied effectively and correctly, reducing risk to the public. In addition, the latest technology and best practices can be deployed quickly to help eradicate germs.

While COVID has dominated global attention for nearly two years, facility leaders shouldn’t forget about regular cleaning and disinfection routines required to help combat infections during the traditional cold and flu season.

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