This year’s flu has received a plenty of attention from local and major news networks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other health and wellness organizations. The H3N2 virus (influenza A) is this year’s most common strain in both the U.S and Canada. The vaccine is much less effective against this strain compared to its performance in the previous season. Currently, researchers say it is only 10-20% effective, compared to 42% last year. For the first time in its 13 years of flu monitoring, the CDC has stated that the flu is widespread in every part of the continental United States. Schools, businesses, and public places may need to increase efforts to limit the spread of the germs and protect the people within their buildings.
The CDC’s “Take 3” Actions for flu prevention are a simple and straightforward approach to flu prevention. They are:
- Get vaccinated
- Stop germs
- Take antiviral if prescribed
What Businesses Can Do
While workplaces can advise their employees to get vaccinated and even hold an on-site clinic if possible, stopping the spread of germs is where business owners and managers can do the most to prevent the flu. As 80% of communicable diseases are spread by hand, an emphasis on hand hygiene is a must.
Sanitize Hands and Surfaces
Cutting off the spread periodically will decrease the risk of becoming ill. An easy way for people to do this is to use hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol-based, like Purell, throughout the day. Studies have shown that optimal placement of dispensers can increase usage by 50%, and that increasing the number of dispensers also means they will be used more often. Commonly touched surfaces need to be sanitized regularly too. When a person touches a contaminated object, s/he picks up 30-50% of the microorganisms on it and could potentially become sick. Disinfecting wipes and sprays with short dwell times are best the options, as they are most likely to be used correctly.
In addition to sanitizers, creating a touch-free environment in the restrooms will decrease cross-contamination and keep microorganisms from being passed around. Automating the entire restroom experience, starting with auto flush systems on toilets and urinals, and ending with no-touch hand dryers or paper towel dispensers, will make for a more hygienic environment. This can also increase user satisfaction, as a survey found that 90% of respondents preferred touch-free fixtures in public restrooms. Making hand sanitizer dispensers available throughout the facility and inside the restroom on the way out is also a good extra precaution. On average, people only wash their hands for 11 seconds instead of the 20 seconds needed to thoroughly clean them.
Have a Plan in Place
Having a plan for the worst-case scenario is advised. According to the World Health Organization, pandemics “can cause severe social, economic, and political stress.” These events can result in high absentee rates and require changes in operations and/or employee duties. Per the Harvard Business Review, “during the peak periods, or waves, of a pandemic, companies could experience absentee rates between 15% and 30%, due to sickness, quarantines, travel restrictions, family care responsibilities, and fear of contagion.” Being prepared for a limited staff, increased demand for hygiene products available, and the need to protect your business will make for a stronger response, less anxiety, and fewer negative consequences.
Reduce the chances of your employees and customers catching the flu, or any illness, by taking precautions like these, and promoting health and hygiene in your facility.