New evidence suggests that COVID-19 may continue to impact the world for many years, meaning that “post pandemic” could just be an illusion. Scientists say new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will evolve at a rate similar to influenza and that it could become a seasonal issue. To manage infectious diseases moving forward, proper cleaning and disinfection is essential. Although experts have noted that the virus is most likely to spread through airborne transmission, maintaining high cleanliness standards is crucial for preventing the spread of other common illnesses and giving employees and facility visitors peace of mind.
Readying for Influenza’s Potential Comeback
A positive result from the increased safety and hygiene measures of the pandemic has been a drop in influenza cases. Typically, the annual flu places a substantial burden on people’s health and the economy. Since 2010, approximately 9 to 45 million people fall ill and up to 61,000 people die annually from influenza in the U.S.
However, during the 2020-2021 winter season, all 50 states have consistently experienced low or minimal flu activity. This can be attributed to new pandemic hygiene and cleanliness measures that slow the spread of all viral respiratory diseases. These behaviors include wearing face masks, frequent handwashing, social distancing, consistently cleaning surfaces and staying home.
After COVID-19 vaccines are widely distributed and cases drop significantly, there is no guarantee that people will maintain these practices. Already, the number of Americans washing their hands six or more times a day has dropped from 78% in April 2020 to 57% in January 2021. Thus, facilities must maintain heightened cleaning and disinfection protocols to combat the spread of illnesses and protect their workers and customers.
Preventing Norovirus and Other Foodborne Illnesses
Regular and thorough surface cleaning and disinfecting is also important to prevent the spread of foodborne diseases. According to the World Health Organization, contaminated food sickens 1 in 10 people every year, 420,000 of whom die as a result. A single foodborne pathogen outbreak can cost a business between $6,000 to over $2 million depending on the severity and scope.
Norovirus is responsible for more than half of all U.S. foodborne outbreaks and can arise in school, healthcare and workplace cafeterias, restaurants, stadiums, convention centers and other facilities. The highly contagious virus is typically considered one of the most difficult to inactivate because it is a non-enveloped virus that can survive on surfaces for days or weeks, even after disinfection. Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces with solutions proven to inactivate norovirus can help cleaning professionals prevent the virus from spreading to food and people.
Preparing for an Entirely New Normal
Cleanliness is increasingly important as more facilities reopen and increase occupancy rates, and vaccination rates rise. The reason for this is twofold. First, the public’s expectations for cleanliness in facilities will remain high. Second, people may forgo some of the precautions they followed before getting vaccinated, like wearing masks and washing hands frequently.
Facility managers and cleaning service providers are entrusted to make buildings safer, now and in the future. Keeping up a frequent cleaning and disinfecting schedule and using effective solutions will not only help defend against the spread of common, seasonal pathogens and new variants that may arise, but it will also give employees and visitors confidence in a facility’s safety.
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