Illnesses occur year-round, but certain illness-causing germs like the common cold, norovirus and influenza peak during the winter months when we spend more time indoors in close quarters. Preventing these germs can go a long way to helping keep building occupants and even businesses healthy. Nearly 111 million workdays are lost due to influenza alone, adding up to approximately $7 billion annually in sick days and lost productivity.
The best way to fight back is with a facility-wide approach using products grounded in science. Learn about what you and your staff can do to help keep germs at bay at your facility.
•  Clean, sanitize and disinfect surfaces regularly. According to a recent survey of cleaning industry professionals, most (68%) said their staff does not understand or only somewhat understands the differences between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. The distinction is important as each plays a role in the cleaning process:
    • Cleaning physically removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects, but does not necessarily kill them. Before sanitizing or disinfecting, heavily soiled surfaces cleaning professionals should clean surfaces first to remove any excess dirt.
    • Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level as judged by public health standards or requirements to lower the risk of spreading infections.
    • Disinfecting kills germs on surfaces or objects using chemicals, but does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. Cleaning professionals should always disinfect high-tough surfaces daily.
• Target high-touch surfaces. Objects and surfaces that are frequently-touched such as desks, countertops, doorknobs, keyboards, faucets, phones and elevator buttons need to be disinfected at least once a day with an EPA-registered disinfectant. This is especially important as viruses that cause the common cold and flu can survive on surfaces for hours at a time.
    • Ready-to-use products and disinfecting wipes are good options for disinfecting high-touch surfaces because they are easy-to-use, require no dilution and deliver the proper chemical concentration each time they are used, minimizing the risk of human error.
• Don’t overlook soft surfaces. From carpets and curtains to upholstery, soft surfaces can be germ reservoirs. Flu viruses for instance can survive on soft surfaces for up to 12 hours. Make sure you incorporate decontaminating soft surfaces using products that are EPA-registered to kill illness-causing germs as part of your ongoing approach to facility-wide infection prevention approach.
• Choose the right products. Select products that have label claims to kill bacteria and viruses like influenza and rhinovirus (the leading cause of the common cold) quickly. Remember to always refer to the product label and follow manufacturer’s instructions for use and contact time, or the length of time the disinfectant needs to remain wet on the surface to properly kill germs.
• Practice personal illness-prevention tips. Encourage employees to practice general healthy habits. Discourage sick employees from coming to work and instruct everyone to wash their hands regularly with soap and water especially after emptying waste baskets, touching used tissues, coughing or sneezing or using the bathroom.

This article was originally written by Rosie D. Lyles, MD, MHA, MSc, Head of Clinical Affairs, Clorox Professional Products Company.