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August 2017

7 most common office germs (and how you catch them)

Written by Nicole Horne
Workplace Hygiene

If one colleague comes down with the flu, chances are that before you know it, the virus has spread throughout the workplace (faster than that rumour about last week’s office party) and most of your workforce will be calling in sick.

Increased levels of absenteeism affect your business’ productivity levels, and thus impact your bottom line. To put it into perspective, employee wellness is just as valuable an asset as time is; since time is money.

We take a look into the top germs that invade the workplace, how they are spread and what you can do about it.

What are the most prevalent germs in offices?

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Norovirus (also known as stomach flu)

The Norovirus causes gastroenteritis, which means that the stomach and the intestines become inflamed. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting.

Staphylococcus aureus (known as Staph)

This type of bacteria can enter cuts, scrapes or areas where the skin is pierced when one comes into contact with contaminated surfaces. This can leads to skin infections. In more extreme cases, this can lead to abscesses, crusting on  the skin, hot and swollen skin, as well as blood poisoning and pneumonia.

Influenza (also called “the flu”)

Influenza is an airborne respiratory virus which attacks the nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms of the flu are coughing, blocked or runny nose, sore throat, lack of energy, fever, cold sweats, muscle pains and headaches. This is a highly contagious virus that is easily spread from person to person through coughing and / or sneezing.

Salmonella sp

Salmonella are a group of bacteria that causes food poisoning through undercooked or contaminated food and can lead to stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting.

Escherichia  coli (E. coli)

This type bacteria is spread through faecal matter and can lead to diarrhea, and in severe cases; abdominal cramps and vomiting.

What can you do to prevent germs in the office?

The well-known saying “prevention is better than” cure couldn’t ring more true. The above illnesses can easily be prevented by doing the following:

Proper handwashing

The best prevention against the spread of germs is through proper hand hygiene practices, as bacteria and viruses easily travel through touch.

  • Wash hands thoroughly; after using the bathroom, before handling food and eating to prevent the transfer of bacteria and viruses.
  • If there are colleagues that do come into contact with animals, or their living environment, they should diligently wash their hands to prevent any illnesses spreading.
  • Damp hands are more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands, so ensure there are hand drying products available in bathrooms and kitchens to prevent the transfer of bacteria to other surfaces.
  • Also be sure to keep a hand sanitiser handy to ensure an additional level of protection.

Read our blog on the 5 reasons you should make a habit of handwashing.

Sanitise surfaces

Be sure to regularly sanitise and disinfect germ hot spots in the workplace such as:

  • Door handles and entry points,
  • Communal office equipment such as printers and phones
  • Employee desks (including telephones, keyboards and mice). A frequent techno hygiene service will curb the spread of germs.
  • Be sure to disinfect kitchen counters and appliances; especially before and after preparing food.

Take care when handling food

  • If colleagues are preparing food, or if your business has a canteen, care should be taken to use different cutlery, plates and chopping boards for raw and cooked foods.
  • Raw and cooked foods should be kept separately.
  • Remember to wash hands and sanitise surfaces before preparing food and also in between handling uncooked and cooked foods.
  • Ensure leftover food is kept refrigerated at all times to prevent it from going bad.

Implementing the above will go a long way in preventing the spread of germs in the office.

For advanced hygiene solutions, give us a call to arrange a custom solution for your business. 

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Nicole Horne

Nicole Horne

Nicole is a Digital Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial Hygiene in Johannesburg. A self-proclaimed germaphobe, her love for hygienic environments and curiosity of all things “beneath the surface” fuels her enthusiasm for writing about the impact of germs in the workplace. She is passionate about creating awareness and sharing her knowledge on the impact of good hygiene practices. Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates on the the good, the bad and the germy.

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