Here’s How the CDC Recommends Schools Clean and Disinfect to Help Slow the Spread of Flu; But Know What You Should Do, Too

FLU VIRUS CAN LIVE AND POTENTIALLY INFECT A PERSON FOR UP TO 48 HOURS AFTER BEING DEPOSITED ON A SURFACE

Cleaning and disinfecting are part of a broad approach to preventing infectious diseases in schools. To help slow the spread of influenza (flu), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that the first line of defense is getting vaccinated, but also recommends how school officials should keep their schools clean and disinfected. Cardinal News has also included Do It Yourself (DIY) guidelines that parents and students should follow to slow or stop the spread of flu.

OUTSIDE OF VACCINATION, THE BEST DEFENSE AGAINST FLU IS STOPPING INFECTION AND CONTAMINATION OF THE FLU VIRUS BY …

1. PREVENTING SURFACES AND FRIENDS FROM BEING CONTAMINATED AND INFECTED BY FLU VIRUS (STAY HOME WHEN SICK)

2. PREVENTING SELF-INFECTION: STOP HAND-TO-NOSE/MOUTH/EYE CONTACT FOLLOWING CONTACT WITH POTENTIALLY CONTAMINATED SURFACES

3. CLEANING AND DISINFECTING SURFACES

People with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after illness begins; however, people can spread the virus and cause illness before they even know they are sick. According to the CDC, some otherwise healthy adults may infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.

Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time period.

Besides strict cleaning and disinfecting, measures of prevention of flu infection include …

1) people staying home from school and work when sick; covering coughs and sneezes;

2) washing hands frequently; and

3) stopping hand-to-mouth, hand-to-nose, and hand-to-eyes contact following the touching of any surfaces.

PREVENTING SURFACE CONTAMINATION AND SELF-CONTAMINATION
To prevent infection of other students and contamination of surfaces, sick students should not only stay home from school; but also stay home from social meetings and after-school events — including visiting friends homes. Sick people may infect friends and contaminate surfaces by sneezing droplets, dripping nasal secretions, and by mouth/nose/eye-to-hand contamination of surfaces.

Steps CDC recommends to prevent flu …

Avoid close contact with others, including hugging, kissing, or shaking hands.

Move away from people before coughing or sneezing.

Wash your hands frequently, especially after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.

Cough and sneeze into a tissue then throw it away, or cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve, completely covering your mouth and nose.

Disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects such as toys and doorknobs.

— CDC

fomites

non-living objects or substances capable of carrying infectious organisms (viruses and bacteria)

To prevent surface contamination with flu virus, people should pay extra attention to possible contamination of electronic devices, such as computers, iPhones and iPads — as even their own iPads or iPhones can be potentially contaminated surfaces. People should be reminded not to place iPhones or iPads down on potentially-contaminated surfaces such as sinks or countertops in public bathrooms, cafeteria tables, schools desks and chairs, gyms, fitness equipment, etc.

Potentially Contaminated Surfaces
Door Knobs and Handles
Desktops and Chairs
Shared Pencils and Pens
Cafeteria Tables and Chairs
Bathroom Counters
Toilet Handles
Smartphones, iPhones, iPads
Gym and Fitness Equipment

Simply put, people should never touch their mouth, nose or eyes after touching potentially contaminated surfaces — especially during flu season, which runs from early October to Late May.

Keep in mind that the prolonged cold weather this season often results in furnaces and heaters running longer, which causes dryer indoor air (low humidity). Dry air causes dryness of eyes, nasal membranes, and the mouth. Dry nasal membranes are especially vulnerable to infection as membranes become dry, irritated and uncomfortable. Also, people are more likely to rub their eyes or nose if membranes are dry and irritated, which can increase the chance of flu infection if fingers previously touched a contaminated surface. If discomfort requires absolute rubbing of eyes or the nose, it is best to use the top of a bent wrist to gently rub eyes or the nose when hands and fingers have not been washed since contacting potentially infected surfaces.

CLEANING AND DISINFECTING
Following are tips the CDC gives to schools on how to slow the spread of flu specifically through cleaning and disinfecting.

1. 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. Disinfecting works by using chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further 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. This process works by either cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or surfaces of objects to lower the risk of spreading infection.

2. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that are touched often
Staff should follow the school’s standard procedures for routine cleaning and disinfecting. Typically, this means daily sanitizing of surfaces and objects that are touched often, such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, computer keyboards, hands-on learning items, faucet handles, phones, and toys. Some schools may also require daily disinfecting of these items. Standard procedures often call for disinfecting specific areas of the school, like bathrooms.

Immediately clean surfaces and objects that are visibly soiled. If surfaces or objects are soiled with body fluids or blood, use gloves and other standard precautions to avoid coming into contact with the fluid. Remove the spill, and then clean and disinfect the surface.

3. Simply do routine cleaning and disinfecting
It is important that schools match the cleaning and disinfecting activities to the types of germs that needs to be removed or killed. Most studies have shown that the flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for up to 48 hours after being deposited on a surface. However, it is not necessary to close schools to clean or disinfect every surface in the building to slow the spread of flu. Also, if students and staff are dismissed because the school cannot function normally (e.g., high absenteeism during a flu outbreak), it is not necessary to do extra cleaning and disinfecting (unless routine cleaning has been below recommendations).

Flu viruses are relatively fragile, so standard cleaning and disinfecting practices are sufficient to remove or kill them, according to the CDD. Special cleaning and disinfecting processes, including wiping down walls and ceilings, frequently using room air deodorizers, and fumigating, are not necessary or recommended. These processes can irritate eyes, noses, throats, and skin; aggravate asthma; and cause other serious side effects.

4. Clean and disinfect correctly
Always follow label directions on cleaning products and disinfectants. Wash surfaces with a general household 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, school staff should clean it with an EPA-registered product that both cleans (removes germs) and disinfects (kills germs) instead. Officials are reminded to 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 (e.g., letting it stand for 3 to 5 minutes).

The CDC recommends the use of disinfecting wipes on electronic items that are touched often, such as phones and computers, paying 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 that the electronics can withstand the use of liquids for cleaning and disinfecting.

5. Use products safely
The CDC recommends staff pay close attention to hazard warnings and directions on product labels. Cleaning products and disinfectants often call for the use of gloves or eye protection. For example, gloves should always be worn to protect hands when working with bleach solutions.

Do not mix cleaners and disinfectants unless the labels indicate it is safe to do so. Combining certain products (such as chlorine bleach and ammonia cleaners) can result in serious injury or death.

School officials should ensure that custodial staff, teachers, and others, who use cleaners and disinfectants, read and understand all instruction labels and understand safe and appropriate use. This might require that instructional materials and training be provided in other languages.

6. Handle waste properly
The CDC recommends that staff follow the school’s standard procedures for handling waste, which may include wearing gloves. There should be placement of no-touch waste baskets where they are easy to use. Staff should throw disposable items used to clean surfaces and items in the trash immediately after use, avoiding the touching of used tissues and other waste when emptying waste baskets. Staff should wash hands with soap and water after emptying waste baskets and touching used tissues and similar waste.

Extra hand washing can cause raw and chapped hands, especially during dry indoor air conditions in winter months. People should learn the tolerance of their skin to frequent hand washing, and use lotions after washing. However, people should not share a public lotion dispenser if it doesn’t have hands-free operation.

Some viruses that cause viral gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”) are known as rotavirus, norovirus, adenovirus, and astrovirus. Bleach may be required to kill off some of these viruses. When vomiting and diarrhea is present in the school population, it might not be known whether a variant of the Influenza A virus is causing the gastrointestinal symptoms or whether a separate gastroenteritis-causing virus is causing infectious illnesses concurrently with the Influenza A outbreak.

See also …
CDC | Guidance for School Administrators to Help Reduce the Spread of Seasonal Influenza in K-12 Schools






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