Protecting yourself and your employees from the flu and coronavirus

It is flu season again and this one is shaping up to be one of the worst in recent history with almost 26 million cases reported already.  As if having the flu around were not bad enough, this year we are coping with strains A and B.   Add to that mix the potential to contract Coronavirus making the odds especially high this year to contract a viral illness.

There are many things we can do to protect against viral infections.  First and foremost with regards to flu is to get the vaccine and get it early.  Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for coronavirus.  Remember if you contract the flu there are now single dose antiviral drugs that are effective in reducing the duration of the impact of the virus and reducing the severity of the symptoms.  But remember that these are most effective if taken within 24 to 48 hours after the onset of symptoms.

Another effective strategy for reducing the chances that you will contract the flu or coronavirus is by regular cleaning of hands.  However, if you are relying on the typical hand sanitizer you might be surprised to discover that the effectiveness of this approach might have some limitations.  A recent study published in mSphere, the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, suggests that ethanol-based sanitizers can take up to four minutes to disinfect hands that carry the flu virus.  The tests involved wet mucus versus dry mucus.  Wet mucus from patients infected with the flu virus took up to four minutes to inactivate the virus with typical hand sanitizers while dry mucus took only 30 seconds.  The study also indicated that washing hands with soap and water deactivated the flu virus in 30 seconds for both wet and dry mucus.  While the Centers for Disease Control recommends that hand sanitizers contain at least 60% alcohol the researchers for the mSphere study indicate that 80% alcohol based hand sanitizers are most effective.  So, bottom line, if you have the time, is go to a sink and wash those hands with soap and water.  The CDC makes the same recommendation for hand washing with regards to the coronavirus however, for hand sanitizers they recommend brands that contain 60 to 95% alcohol and that the hand sanitizer be applied to all surfaces of your hands and worked until dry.    

In case you were wondering, F&R possesses a staff of qualified, experienced, and trained industrial hygiene sampling technicians and health and safety training providers that conduct sampling and silica awareness training all under the direction of a Certified Industrial Hygienist and a Certified Safety Professional. Our sampling techniques are non-intrusive and our training is hands-on and participation driven, increasing the likelihood that your crew persons will learn and retain essential information.

About the Author

The abundantly acronym-ed Glenn Hargrove heads up F&R’s Industrial Hygiene efforts. A Certified Industrial Hygienist, Certified Safety Professional and Certified Awesome Guy, Glenn is our in-house expert on all matters pertaining to occupational risk management, hygiene, safety and other compliance based and regulation-heavy fields of practice. In short, he knows all the rules and he assists clients with compliance in practical and strategic ways to limit their exposure to inherent workplace risks. This support is comprised of evaluation of client work processes, monitoring of workplace stressors, evaluation of analytical results for personal and/or ambient air monitoring, and recommendations for response actions to include engineering and administrative controls and personal protective equipment. Not satisfied with just being the authority on what goes on inside your environment, Glenn is also a registered Professional Geologist giving him the unique perspective on what is happening underneath it as well.