As if the Coronavirus isn’t enough to worry about, winter approaching means there are the usual winter cold and flu germs to worry about. Despite the fact that according to experts South Africa didn’t actually have a flu season in 2020 (you can read more about that in our previous blog post titled “How far does a sneeze travel?” ) in order to fend off this year’s flu season we all need to be taking the right precautions. The old phrase, ‘prevention is better than cure’ is certainly true during a global pandemic.
Improving productivity in the workplace:
One would hope that something good to come out of the Coronavirus pandemic would be the stop of presenteeism: the practice of coming to work despite illness, injury or anxiety and often resulting in reduced productivity. Read more about this in our article ‘Presenteeism and Productivity‘.
But I fear that for many people, the pandemic has wiped out their sick leave reserves and as a result if the flu strikes, they may feel compelled to go in to the office. Both presenteeism and absenteeism costs the SA economy millions every year (you can read more about what you can do about absenteeism in your workplace on our blog) so to prevent that, here are our top 3 ways to reduce the risk of contracting Flu this winter:
1. Install a VIRUSKILLER™ in your workplace
As we find out more about how Coronavirus and other viruses and bacteria spread, air care and the quality of the air we breathe indoors is starting to take centre stage. Making sure that the air people breathe in enclosed spaces (such as the office) is safe and decontaminated from infectious diseases is the first step in preventing the flu this winter.
All of our VIRUSKILLER™ Air Purifiers kill 99.9999% of viruses in a single air pass, including Coronavirus*. Installing a VIRUSKILLER™ in your workplace will improve air quality and stop the airborne transmission of infectious illnesses, making indoor spaces safer for customers, visitors, patients and staff.
Despite widespread acceptance that aerosol transmission of viruses is a risk, recent research commissioned by Rentokil Initial revealed a lack of awareness of this risk amongst the general public.
2. Prioritise good hand hygiene practices
Washing your hands with soap is still one of the most effective ways of minimising the risk of spreading illnesses such as both the flu virus and the Coronavirus, especially when combined with air purification.
Poor hand hygiene remains one of the biggest causes of the spread of all sorts of illness in offices, schools and care homes, but if you need more reasons than that, read our previous blog post on 5 reasons why you should make a habit of handwashing.
Remember these basic hand hygiene rules:
- Wash your hands properly (20 – 25 seconds) and often with soap and water, and remember to dry your hands thoroughly too.
- If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Regularly clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus.
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, using a thick tissue or your arm — NOT your hands which will then contaminate everything you touch. Make sure to wash or sanitise your hands immediately afterwards.
- Dispose of used tissues.
- Self-isolate if you have any cold or flu symptoms
- Don’t share items such as: towels, toys, cutlery, cups, plates and kitchen utensils.
3. Get a seasonal flu vaccine
The flu vaccine won’t protect you against COVID-19, but it will protect you against flu. Since the flu season and the COVID-19 pandemic are still overlapping, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in South Africa has recommended that everyone, in particular those who are at high-risk of developing severe flu and flu-related complications, receive a flu vaccination ahead of influenza season this year to help to decrease the burden on our healthcare system.
According to the NICD, groups recommended to receive influenza vaccination in 2021 include:
- Healthcare workers
- Persons aged ≥ 65 years
- Persons with underlying chronic health conditions
- HIV–infected adults
- Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy, or postpartum
- Residents of old-age homes, chronic care and rehabilitation institutions
- Persons aged 6 months to ≤18 years on long-term aspirin therapy
- Children aged 6 months to 5 years and their household contacts or caregivers
- Any persons wishing to minimise the risk of influenza acquisition.
The purpose of a vaccine is to build up immunity before catching the disease, which means it’s of no use if you’re already infected – so make sure you get one before flu season starts! Guidelines and other useful resources are available on the NICD website.
What about Antibiotics?
Please remember that antibiotics have no effect on the flu or other viral infections because they only work on bacteria. Taking antibiotics when not needed and for the wrong disease increases the risk of bacterial populations developing resistance – such as MRSA – which causes problems in hospitals around the world. This reduces the effective antibiotics available for people whose lives depend on them. So please don’t take them when you have a cold unless a doctor prescribes them for bacterial infections that you may have at the same time.
We hope these cold and flu prevention tips will help you and your colleagues, customers or patients stay healthy this flu season.