This virus is spread primarily from one person to another via the airborne route of transmission. When a person with Influenza is coughing and sneezing they are expelling tiny droplets into the air which contain the virus. Most people who get Influenza are exposed to the virus by breathing in these tiny droplets expelled by sick people. The virus however can be spread onto environmental surfaces via these same droplets. If a healthy person touches a virus contaminated surface and then rubs their eyes or nose they are then potentially exposed to the virus. Some studies suggest the virus contaminated surfaces can still infect people 8 hours after initial contamination.
Workplace Strategies to Control Influenza
Sneezing and Coughing Control
Facial tissue should be readily available throughout the workplace for employees to use for sneezing and coughing. When the need to sneeze or cough presents without the availability of facial tissue then employees should use the inner elbow to absorb the force and droplets of the cough or sneeze. Used facial tissue should be thrown in the trash and hand hygiene should be immediately performed afterwards.
Improved Hand Hygiene
Hand hygiene is the number one way to protect our health from many illnesses including Influenza. In the case of Influenza this includes washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol based hand sanitizers. Ensure washrooms and break rooms with sinks are fully stocked and supplied with soap and paper towels.
Hand sanitizer can also be made available throughout the workplace to provide frequent opportunity to reduce the risk our hands have picked up the virus. Hand sanitizer placement should reflect areas of increased risk of sharing touch surfaces as well as common access points. These include but are not limited to areas such as building entrances, outside elevators, in break rooms or eating areas, public telephone locations, shared computer / photocopier resources, etc..
Increased Cleaning Frequency
With the increased presence of the virus in daily activities the traditional once per day cleaning may not be enough to control the contamination of environmental surfaces. Cleaning services should be increased and focused upon frequent contact surfaces such as door knobs and handles, cart handles, conveyor belts, railings, elevator buttons, drinking fountains, tables and chairs, call bells, etc.
Cleaning services that are performed only after business hours may not be available for increased cleaning during the day. In these situations the use of prewetted towels for cleaning can be made available for employees. These employees can on their own initiative clean their own work environment and shared equipment / furniture they will be using for a prolonged period of time to protect themselves.
The workplace is a significant arena where illness can be transmitted within our population. Controlling the spread of any seasonal illness such as Influenza is not only respecting the value of Employees but is a cost savings / productivity increase opportunity for the Employer as well.