Flu Season Guide

29 May 2020
Flu Season Guide

This year’s flu season is beginning to taper off, but experts are advising that public health and sanitation professionals stick to recommended cleaning/disinfecting practices through the end of April. There are two reasons for that recommendation. First, April marks the traditional “end” of seasonal flu that emerges in the fall—by the beginning of May most of us are spending more time outdoors than in, depriving influenza of the close-quarters gatherings that let it grow and spread like wildfire. The other reason for continuing preventative measures through April has to do with the nature of this flu season; it’s what’s known as a “doubled-barreled” season, meaning two strains of flu hit in quick succession. Theoretically, unvaccinated people can sick twice during these rare seasons—once for each strain. Even vaccinated folks stand a greater chance of infection.

As a janitor/custodian, seasonal flu prevention is becoming one of your most important jobs (from October to April, anyway). The landscape in the janitorial world is evolving quickly from cleaning for appearance to cleaning for health. A mop truck and a spray bottle of multi-surface cleaner don’t pass muster any longer. In fact, your supply room should be stocked with several disinfectants designed to kill different pathogens and different types of surfaces. Let’s look at a few of the products you should have on hand for the duration of flu season.

One of the most important flu fighting products to have on hand is a modern janitorial staple—disinfectant. The problem is that “disinfectant” can refer to several different products that have a similar result (dead germs), but wildly different mechanisms for getting there. Traditional disinfectants like bleach are meant to be used after cleaning surfaces with a soap or detergent. Typically, these need to be applied to hard surfaces and then left to stand for at least 5 minutes; they’re often not advised for use on soft surfaces or water-sensitive equipment.

An increasingly common alternative are quaternary disinfectant cleaners, usually called “quats.” These are products that can clean and disinfect in one step because, unlike traditional disinfectants, quats include a surfactant (soap or detergent). For those of you cleaning in large and/or consistently busy settings, quaternary disinfectants are a must-have item. They kill influenza (plus other germs) and allow you to disinfect more surface area while you work. Bear in mind, though, that they don’t completely replace detergents and traditional disinfectants—you should still clean and disinfect the old-fashioned way periodically, as quats can build a slippery layer on some hard surfaces over time.

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