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Preventing Infection Spread in Schools – Q&A

By Michael Kupneski

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Question: With heightened awareness of viruses on school campuses, what’s the best way to keep our schools clean and hygienic?

Answer:

We’ve all seen the news reports of a rare strain of Enterovirus, known as Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), popping up in school-aged children across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. has been experiencing a nationwide outbreak of EV-D68 which has led to an increase of illnesses among children, affecting those with asthma most severely.

With the school year now in full swing, EV-D68 and other types of viruses should serve as reminders to facility managers and custodial staff to promote hand washing among the campus population and to be vigilant in cleaning and disinfecting to help protect students and staff.

Symptoms and Exposure to EV-D68

Enterovirus D68 is one of more than 100 non-polio Enteroviruses, and can cause mild to severe respiratory illness. Infants, children and teenagers are mostly affected as they do not yet have immunity to it. Adults can develop infection as well.

Mild symptoms may range from fever to runny nose to sneezing and coughing, along with body and muscle aches. Severe symptoms may include wheezing and difficulty breathing. EV-D68, according to the CDC, likely spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs, sneezes or touches a surface that is then touched by others.

Keep Your Campus Clean and Hygienic

With these and other viruses circulating on school grounds, facility managers and custodial staff have an important role in helping stop the spread of germs from one student or staff member to another.

  • Hand Wash Regularly

It sounds so simple, but this is the best way to prevent the spread of germs, and is one of the most important steps that students and teachers can take to protect themselves. The CDC recommends washing hands often with soap and water, especially before eating food, after using the restroom, after blowing your nose and coughing or sneezing, just to name a few. Students should also avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Supplies Stocked

Facility managers should ensure that all restrooms, classrooms, locker rooms and any other areas where students and staff wash their hands are regularly stocked. Cleaning staff should regularly check these areas and refill soap and paper towel dispensers as needed. Additionally, empty any trash cans overflowing with paper towels to help rid of germs.
  • Hand Washing Reminders

Initiate a “hand washing for hygiene” campaign on campus, through posters and reminders sent home to parents, students and staff to help promote good hand washing practices. This is a great way to remind both students and staff about the importance of good personal hygiene.

Cleaning and Disinfecting Procedures

  • Hit High Frequency Areas

Facility managers should identify high risk areas throughout the school campus that can be a breeding ground for germs. These high risk areas may include restrooms, classrooms, locker rooms, the gymnasium, cafeteria and nurse’s office. Once identified, it’s important to note high-touch surfaces within these areas, such as faucets, toilet levers, doorknobs, shared computer keyboards, shower faucet handles, workout equipment and cafeteria tables and chairs, just to name a few.
Utilize multipurpose products, that clean and disinfect in one-step, on high-touch surfaces as they are touched by many different hands daily and can contribute to the spread of bacteria and germs. These surfaces require more frequent cleaning and disinfecting, depending on foot traffic in your facility, to help prevent the transmission of disease. Look for multipurpose products that are virucidal and refer to label instructions for proper usage and dwell times.
  • Cleaning vs. Disinfecting

Custodial staff should be trained on the difference between cleaning and disinfecting, as both are important aspects of an effective cleaning program. Cleaning is the process of removing the soil from a surface, as soil can harbor germs and bacteria. Disinfecting is the process of killing these germs. It’s important for custodial staff to clean a surface well before disinfecting it. This will allow disinfecting agents to work more effectively than just disinfecting alone.
  • Do it Right the First Time

Multipurpose products that have been formulated to remove a broad range of target soils and disinfect can be very efficient and effective in cleaning educational facilities. In fact, in the 2014 P&G Professional Cleaning Industry Insights Survey, managers of commercial cleaning operations noted the most helpful factors for performing cleaning services are “products that get the job done the first time (57 percent),” “products that work quickly (28 percent)” and “a simpler routine that all staff can get accustomed to (25 percent).”

Cleaning and disinfecting with one product can help save labor time and money and simplify cleaning and disinfecting procedures, which aids in getting the job done right the first time and reduces the need for rework.

Facility managers and custodial staff should always be vigilant in their cleaning efforts. By promoting good hand washing practices, identifying high frequency areas and high-touch surfaces and regularly cleaning and disinfecting, facility managers can help keep educational facilities clean and hygienic. This, in turn, can help curb outbreaks and illnesses on campus as well as lessen staff and student absences.

About Michael Kupneski

Michael Kupneski is the R&D Section Head for Procter & Gamble Professional. He is responsible for all formula design, technology development and process development for P&G Professional’s air care, hard surface cleaners and dish products, globally.

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