Swine flu is a new variant of the H1N1 strain of influenza type A. It is highly contagious and spreads from person-to-person in several ways: when an ill person sneezes or coughs, infected droplets enter another person through the nose, mouth or eyes; or the droplets can land on a contact surface (e.g., a doorknob) that is touched by another person who then touches their face.1 Because swine flu is a new variant virus, most people do not have immunity and may become ill or die. A new H1N1 flu vaccine is being tested and should be available in fall 2009, although the initial supply may be limited for the general population.
The following guidelines were prepared specifically for cleaning, janitorial and maintenance staff. They address:
Measures to reduce the risk of infection for cleaning personnel
Adults inflicted with the H1N1 virus can infect others one day before developing symptoms and for up to one week after becoming sick. Children can be contagious for several weeks.1 The H1N1 symptoms are similar to other flu illnesses. Therefore, cleaning personnel should take the following steps to reduce their risk of infection during an H1N1 outbreak and other influenza strains during the regular flu season:
Effective and routine cleaning procedures to reduce the risk of transmission during flu season or for any high-risk community.
Effective cleaning emphasizes maximum physical removal of unwanted contaminants and pollutants using an appropriate cleaning agent and application method. When done frequently the risk of transmitting infectious agents is reduced considerably. Flu viruses, including H1N1, can survive 8-12 hours on paper or cloth, 24-48 hours on nonporous surfaces, like doorknobs or desks, and up to 72 hours on wet surfaces.2 This means they can remain contagious overnight in an improperly cleaned office or school. The cleaning procedure may employ various cleaning and disinfecting agents. Remember merely applying a disinfectant is not a substitute for cleaning. In that regard, consider the following:
o Doorknobs, light switches, elevator buttons, remote controls, handrails
o Computer keyboards and mice, telephones, microphones
o Cafeteria tables and chairs, coffeemakers, vending machines.
Additional cleaning procedures during an H1N1 community outbreak or confirmed cases in your building(s).
The H1N1 flu virus is killed effectively by bleach-based products or EPA-registered disinfectants or cleaning/disinfectant products with demonstrated (proven) virucidal claims against flu viruses and effective cleaning protocols as previously described.
During an H1N1 flu outbreak, however, these additional cleaning procedures are advisable:
For regular swine flu updates visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov.
*Information on correct hand washing techniques is available by visiting http://www.simmons.edu/hygieneandhealth/proper%20handwashing%20brochure.pdf.
1 - Swine Flu: Preventing Spread in the Home and Community, International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene, April 2009.
2 - H1N1 Fact Sheet for Cleaning Professionals, CleanLink.com.
Cleaning to Reduce the Risk of H1N1 Flu Virus - Guidelines for Cleaning, Janitorial and Maintenance Staff: Created on August 6th, 2009. Last Modified on November 19th, 2009
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