To kill whooping cough bacteria as well as cold and flu viruses, BSCs should use an EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectant with a kill claim for influenza A and B. Cleaning protocols for preventing the spread of whooping cough will be the same as those used during cold and flu season.

“You need to spray the surface and thoroughly wet it. If it starts to dry out in 10 minutes, you should respray it,” says John Thomas, sales manager and healthcare specialist for Philip Rosenau Co., Warminster, Pa. “Many times, [janitors] are rushing to get their area clean, and they may not be ensuring that a 10 minute dwell time is achieved.”

As with any cleaning procedure, janitors should keep it simple.

“You’re not going to do anything differently for one organism than you do for another,” says Darrel Hicks, director of environmental services and patient transportation at St. Luke’s Hospital in St. Louis, and the author of “Infection Control for Dummies.” “We need to get people in tune with cleaning the same way all the time, because whatever the ‘organism du jour’ is, they need to keep up the highest level possible of cleaning and disinfecting.”

According to Hicks, the focus should be on soil removal.

“That’s what I preach all the time,” he says. “With the soil, go all the bad guys. If you do a good job of soil removal, you don’t have to use as strong a disinfectant.”

Doug Coleman, coordinator-custodial services at Rockwood School District in St. Louis uses a disinfectant, followed by a surface protectant on high-touch areas, such as desktops and door handles, to discourage the growth of germs and bacteria. He also relies on microfiber to remove soils from surfaces and floors.

“With microfiber, there’s less chance of cross-contamination,” he says. “If there’s the potential for a bad disease coming our way, we increase the number of microfiber changes.”

Get occupants involved to prevent whooping cough

While surface disinfecting is an important component of a cleaning program aimed at preventing the spread of whooping cough, there are additional measures custodians can take that may be even more effective at averting an outbreak.

Because whooping cough is spread primarily through the air, a good air filtration system is useful.

“One of the smartest things BSCs can do is to check on HVAC maintenance and make sure that the filtration systems in the building are well maintained and are actually removing particulates in the air,” says Ben Tanner, president of the Antimicrobial Test Laboratory in Round Rock, Texas.

If BSCs are responsible for HVAC care, filters should be changed frequently.

“Our maintenance people are very diligent about changing the filters in all the HVACs,” says Coleman.

Furthermore, janitors should protect themselves by wearing masks if they are cleaning in the vicinity of an infected person. As Tanner points out, wearing a mask is “kind of like having an air filter right in front of your face.”

People with pertussis most likely will be coughing or sneezing into their hands, so frequent hand washing or hand sanitizing is also a must.

“Our recommendation to reduce the spread of flu or whooping cough is regular hand washing first and then surface cleaning and disinfecting second,” says Diane Emo, vice president of marketing for Coverall Health-Based Cleaning System in Deerfield Beach, Fla.
BSCs can help ensure that soap dispensers are fully stocked and provide hand sanitizing stations in areas without access to soap and water. Contractors can also provide signage to encourage hand washing for the recommended 15 seconds.

In addition to protecting themselves, contractors can encourage others to do the same by providing disinfecting wipes and increasing the supply of hand sanitizer throughout the facility.

“We don’t believe in using hand sanitizer for everything,” says Coleman, “but if there’s a health threat, we emphasize its use and make sure it’s available.”
Perhaps the most effective way to prevent the spread of whooping cough is through education — not only for cleaning staff but for building occupants. In addition to training custodians on proper cleaning procedures, BSCs can help raise the public’s awareness of this disease and the importance of cleanliness and sanitation in preventing its spread.

“Education is a critical part of making sure you’re reducing the spread of illness,” says Emo. “We don’t want to make everyone a germaphobe. There are germs everywhere, and some of them are good and some are bad. The problem is you can’t see any of them, so you don’t know what surface has whooping cough on it and which one has benevolent germs taking a ride. Unless you implement an effective cleaning and disinfecting program to kill those germs, you really don’t know what you’re facing each time you sit down at your desk or at a keyboard.”

Kassandra Kania is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C. She is a frequent contributor to Contracting Profits.