What Cleanliness Concerns Do Americans Have This Fall?

An infectious disease expert discusses America’s views on cleanliness and what FMs can do to help stop the spread of infectious diseases.

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As we enter November, COVID-19 cases appear to be on the rise once again. Concerned about the spread of COVID and other illnesses, Americans are still increasingly focused on cleanliness.

In a recent YouGov survey commissioned by ISSA, roughly three in five respondents (57%) are more concerned about the cleanliness of a business they frequent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than half (56%) have thought more about how clean a business/public space is in the past two years than ever before.

To learn more about this study’s findings and explore American’s greatest concerns when it comes to cleanliness, Facility Executive spoke with Dr. Gavin MacGregor-Skinner, infectious disease expert and director of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a division of ISSA.

What Illnesses Are Americans Most Concerned About Right Now?

Based on the data we are seeing about flu, the U.S. flu season could be significant. The biggest hint comes from the Southern Hemisphere, such as in Australia where this year’s winter flu season was the worst it’s been in five years. In 2021, there were nearly 600 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza and no deaths. For the 2022 flu season, Australia reported more than 224,000 cases and 305 deaths. Children aged 5-9 years old had the highest rates of flu along with children under five and adolescents and teenagers under the age of 20. The first week of the U.S. 2022-23 flu reporting season [began after Oct. 8] and we already are seeing high flu activity in 10 states, and moderate activity in eight states.

Flu viruses can survive and remain infectious outside of our bodies. These viruses can survive 24-48 hours on hard, nonporous surfaces such as stainless steel and plastic, and up to 8-12 hours on cloth, paper, and tissues. Flu viruses can survive on hands for up to five minutes after touching a contaminated surface, so transmission from surfaces is possible. Washing your hands and frequently cleaning surfaces that we touch, especially if people with symptoms are present, can help reduce transmission.

Americans have changed their personal cleaning habits permanently. They are more frequently washing their hands, using hand sanitizer, wiping things before they use them, and avoiding touching things in public with their bare hands.

How Can Companies Help Prevent The Spread Of Infectious Diseases? What Are Major Mistakes Companies Make In Regards To Cleaning Procedures?

There are a few things companies can do to improve their cleaning procedures to elevate their standard of clean.

First begins with measurement. Validating cleaning results has never been more critical. Often what we think is clean may not be; a visual check is not enough to ensure the safety of occupants and to validate cleaning processes and protocols. Facility managers need to know and demand evidence-based data tracking of cleaning results. Subjective visual checks of doing tasks can be strengthened by validating procedures for cleanliness using fluorescent gel and black light technology, and ATP meters.