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Public Health Matters: Flu Prevention

November 16, 2017

Think the seasonal flu is no big deal? Think again. Seasonal influenza (the flu) is a serious and contagious respiratory infection, generally transmitted through human to human contact.  People who have the flu often present with fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. The impact on public health and businesses due to seasonal flu can be significant.

In Europe the flu season occurs every winter and is generally from November through to April. Flu season in Europe peaked between the middle of December through mid-March, during the 2016/2017 flu season, however the impact of seasonal flu can vary year to year. With flu season approaching, now is the time for families and businesses to take steps to prevent and protect against the flu.
While public health officials cannot predict the severity of the upcoming 2017/2018 flu season, the flu sickens approximately ten to thirty per cent of Europe's population each year. Hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized1 and between 15,000 – 70,000 European citizens die every year2 from the flu and flu-related complications. Older people, younger children and those with chronic conditions suffer the most, but everyone is at risk1. The wide range of deaths related to influenza infection is due to the severity of the annual flu season. 

Flu has a significant impact on businesses as well, resulting in time off work, losses to production as well as pressure and costs on the health and social care services. Fortunately, there are a number of important measures that businesses and families can take to reduce the risk of flu.  

Here are our tips to help reduce the risk of spreading the seasonal flu:
Top Tips Graphic
Wash your hands frequently
Proper hand hygiene / hand-washing is essential to preventing an influenza contamination. Proper hand-washing helps remove most bacteria, viruses and other pathogens, so they can’t be spread to others. The ECDC recommends the following:
Hands should be washed thoroughly with soap and water3
After washing with soap and water, dry hands thoroughly with single-use paper towels. Hand-washing with drying of hands should last for at least 40-60 seconds each time3.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers reduce the amount of influenza virus on contaminated hands. When hand-washing is not possible, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are an option3.

Avoid other that are sick & stay home yourself when sick
For the flu to be transmitted the virus must go from an  individual who has contracted the flu virus to another  person, who can then become infected. Individuals who have contracted the flu virus are contagious at least one day prior to displaying symptoms, and up to seven days after they first appear. You can reduce the risk of this sort of transmission through social distancing by avoiding others who are sick and staying home yourself if sick.

Clean & disinfect surfaces
The flu virus can survive up to 48 hours on stainless steel and plastic surfaces, and up to 12 hours on cloth, paper and tissues.  Proper cleaning and disinfecting can minimize the chances of individuals contracting the virus from a contaminated surface.  To properly clean, disinfect and protect your environment:
Clean any visible soil from surfaces before disinfecting. When cleaning and disinfecting, work from top to bottom and from cleaner to more heavily soiled surfaces.
Thoroughly wet the surface with a BPD-registered disinfectant with claims for Influenza A and follow label instructions. 
Disinfect frequently touched hard surfaces often, including tables, chairs, light switches, door handles and restroom facilities.
Give special attention to frequently touched surfaces in food preparation areas, as well as the restroom, including light switches, faucets, toilet flush levers, door knobs and handrails.

Get the flu vaccination
Getting a flu vaccine and taking antiviral medications as prescribed, are two ways the European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC) advocates stopping the spread of flu germs. The flu vaccine is one of the most effective forms of protection against seasonal flu.3

Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing 
Coughing and sneezing into your elbow or a tissue helps protect others. If you do have seasonal flu and do not cover your nose or mouth a person or persons with two meters can be infected3.  

Wash your tableware thoroughly
Eating utensils, dishes and glasses should all be thoroughly washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and dishwashing detergent.

You can find additional information on how Ecolab can help you and your business prepare for the flu season.






Public Health Matters: Flu Prevention


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