The global spread of a novel flu virus, a flu pandemic, happens perhaps three to four times a century. Hence, the current H1N1 pandemic is likely the first pandemic experience for many of us. Importantly, we can all have an active role in not getting sick and not further spreading the virus.
The H1N1 flu is distinguishing itself from the more familiar seasonal flu by when it is occurring and who is most severely impacted. Because of H1N1, there have been many days of missed work and school as well as busy emergency rooms starting early in the fall and extending through today.In contrast, the seasonal flu reaches its peak around February. Pregnant women and children have also been disproportionally affected by H1N1, which represents a notable shift from seasonal flu which mainly targets senior citizens.
The mode of spread, however, for the H1N1 virus is thought to occur in much the same way as the seasonal flu. Namely, it moves from person to person through either coughing or sneezing by infected people near a new person or onto a surface that is subsequently touched by a new person. In light of this, the best way to protect yourself from not getting sick is to take advantage of both the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccinations as they become available to you. Other ways to protect yourself include frequently washing hands with soap and water, avoiding contact with sick people, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze, and staying home if you become ill. In addition, since the nature of flu and prevention activities can vary by region, staying informed through your local flu experts in city, county, and state health agencies is highly recommended. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a number of resources available for businesses at www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu/business.
H1N1 and I&I
Though each of us needs to take personal hygiene precautions, cleaning professionals (e.g., janitorial staff, building maintenance, housekeeping department) may also play a part in protecting the public from infectious respiratory diseases once we step outside our homes. Hence, I’ve been working with P&G Professional, P&G’s away-from-home division that provides professional cleaning solutions, to educate customers on H1N1 and promote best practices in cleaning, including:
• Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently with EPA-registered hospital detergent/ disinfectants. Based on available scientific information, the EPA believes that currently registered influenza A virus products will be effective against the 2009-H1N1 flu strain.
• Pay particular attention to areas that are frequently touched (especially in customer or high use areas). Examples include door knobs, sink faucets, counter tops, phones, chairs, tables, toilet handles, elevator buttons, light switches, handrails andoffice equipment.
• For safe and effective use of these products, always follow label instructions and pay special attention to the product’s dilution rate (if applicable) and contact time.
The H1N1 pandemic provides an excellent reminder on the many ways for us to strike back against an assortment of infectious respiratory diseases, including the seasonal flu and colds, that occur every winter. For more information on H1N1, visit www.pgpro.com.
About the Author
Jeff Lange, Ph.D., is an epidemiologist within P&G Health and Well-Being in Cincinnati, OH, who works with his fellow scientists and external clinical experts to provide consumers with health information about in-market product use.