The Flu, Schools, and Children Schools are Seeing Their Way to Better Cleaning to Keep Children Healthy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu season is very unpredictable. It’s timing, duration, and severity can vary from year to year. In much of Canada, the peak season for the flu is December through March; however, it has been known to arrive as early as October and extend into May.
While the logistics of the flu season may vary, what we do know is this:
- More than 12,000 people are hospitalized each year in Canada due to the flu and 3,500 people die of the disease1;
- Only about one-third of Canadians receive the flu vaccine each year2;
- Flu germs can spread by inhalation or by touching droplets of flu germs on surfaces (the result of someone coughing or sneezing);
- People with the highest risk of getting the flu in Canada are young children, adults aged 65 and over, pregnant women, and those living with a chronic health condition.
We should note that the flu is not the only disease of concern during the winter months. It is the winter season when more children come down with colds, strep throat, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and even cases of norovirus are more frequent during the winter months.
Because so few Canadians get flu shots, much of the burden of keeping Canadian school children healthy, falls on the shoulders of school administrators and custodial workers. One of the first things they can do is proactively determine where germs and pathogens are located in a school setting. Then, they can adapt cleaning programs to help eliminate them.
Many school administrators conduct various types of “audits” or assessments, analyzing, for instance, water and energy consumption with the goal of reducing both. However, rarely is what is called a “surface vulnerability assessment” conducted.
This too is a type of audit. However, a surface vulnerability assessment is designed to analyze and determine where pathogens are located in a school facility. Many pathogens have the potential of spreading infections and consequently, school administrators should know where they are located, so they can adapt and improve cleaning practices and procedures to eliminate them. Fortunately, technology is making it much easier to do this.
One of the first big technological advances in this area was the use of adenosine triphosphate testing systems, better known as ATP. This technology, introduced into the professional cleaning industry about a decade ago, detects if living cells are present on a surface. The results are available in seconds, not days, as is the case when using swabs and Petri dishes.
But there has been a recent step change in technology and tools. New imaging technologies are now available that provides precise information about surface pathogens hotspots – something not possible with ATP testing. Surface imaging technologies such as that offered by OptiSolve capture images of microbial contamination on surfaces and generate maps, indicating where they are present and in what concentrations.
Essentially, this provides a “story” for school administrators and custodial workers to action on various surfaces in the facilities they manage. With this information, they are able to provide more effective staff training that ultimately improves the health and safety of students, staff, and visitors.