Hand Hygiene and Surface Disinfection: The Role Each Plays in Flu Prevention

By Jim Arbogast, Ph.D., Hygiene Sciences and Public Health Advancements Vice President, GOJO Industries
Mar 7, 2017 10:45 AM ET
Blog

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a report that said the current flu vaccine reduces your risk of the flu by about 50 to 60 percent. The flu vaccine still provides great value in that vaccinated people are less likely to get infected and may have a milder illness if they do become infected. But with the flu season typically running until April or even May, what can we do to help protect ourselves from coming down with the flu?

While a flu vaccine is still an important step in decreasing the risk of illness and infection, there are other measures we can all take to help reduce our risk of becoming ill. These include practicing good hand hygiene and disinfecting and cleaning surfaces.

The Practice of Good Hand Hygiene

While hand hygiene is logical and simple, it is sometimes forgotten. However, it is one of the most important measures everyone can take to reduce the spread of germs that make you sick. In fact, hand hygiene, which includes handwashing or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available, is recommended by the CDC to help prevent the spread of these germs.

Practicing good hand hygiene at key moments is important in keeping you and your family healthy. These key moments include:

  • Before and after preparing food;
  • Before and after caring for someone that is sick or around someone who is ill;
  • After using the bathroom;
  • After sneezing or coughing; and
  • After touching anything that is in a high-traffic area that may have been touched by many different hands, such as the grocery cart handle, counter-tops, handles, a phone or a handrail.  

Clean and Disinfect Surfaces

At work and in our homes, we all touch a variety of surfaces. From doorknobs, to kitchen and break room counters, to light switches, germs that can cause illness are easily transferred from one person to the next via the surfaces we touch. This is why it is important to clean and disinfect both hard and soft surfaces frequently as well as objects such as office equipment and children’s toys. Also, always sanitize and disinfect food-preparation surfaces with a sanitizer and disinfectant specifically formulated for those surfaces. Check the label claims and safety warnings – preferably use a product that has a good spectrum of germs called out, plus does not require long contact times (e.g. some say leave wet for 5 minutes) or does not require strong safety precautions (e.g. some say wear gloves). 

For more information on preventive measures we can take this winter germ season, go to PURELL.com