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Consensus Statement from the Global Hygiene Council

Overview

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 15 and 60 million Americans develop the flu each year.i Cold and flu season, which usually begins as early as October, is unpredictable and can even result in severe illnesses, particularly amongst children. Approximately 20,000 children under the age of five are hospitalized each year as a result of complications from the flu.ii Unfortunately, people may be unaware that they are infected, thus contributing to the spread of cold and flu viruses. The CDC notes that adults can pass on the flu to another person just one day before symptoms develop and five to six days after being sick, while children can remain contagious for longer than seven days.iii

The Global Hygiene Council (GHC) is committed to staying ahead of virus outbreaks and providing resources for consumers to help prevent infection. In light of the current outbreak of a variant Influenza A strain called H3N2v, which upon the drafting of this statement has infected 297 people across ten U.S. states and resulted in one deathiv, the GHC has analyzed data from its 2012 studies, which are supported by an educational grant from Lysol®. The studies show that while Americans have a strong knowledge regarding good hygiene, they do not always take appropriate measures to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases, demonstrating the need to elevate the importance of adopting good hygiene practices during this year's cold and flu season.

GHC Data Highlights

  • Although surfaces may look clean, infectious viruses and bacteria may still be present. Influenza A virus can live on a variety of surfaces in the home and classroom for up to 48 hours.v
  • In school settings, eating areas and nurses' offices were found to be the most commonly infected areas, containing even more potentially disease-causing germs than the bathrooms.vi
  • Mothers may not be properly cleaning and disinfecting areas where viruses and bacteria can congregate. Less than half of mothers in the U.S. disinfect surfaces at home more often when a family member is ill, contributing to the spread of illness within the home.
  • Only 44 percent of mothers clean and disinfect the interior of their child's lunch box each day.vii
  • In studies of food preparation in the kitchen, participants contaminated more than 50 percent of kitchen surfaces and items that they touched.
    • Up to 90 percent of hand-contact surfaces in the kitchen, such as bottles and soap dispensers, were contaminated, posing a risk to others who may use those objects next.viii
    • Only 17 percent of participants studied washed their hands with soap after touching raw chicken.viii
    • Cold and flu viruses can also spread through contact with contaminated surfaces, emphasizing the importance of routine cleaning and disinfection.
  • Kitchen towels, cloths and sponges are the most commonly contaminated items in the home and tested positive for at least 450,000 microorganisms of bacteria.viii
    • 86 percent of sink faucet handles were also found to be contaminated with bacteria, evidence that contamination can occur even after hands have been washed. This also applies to the spread of viruses that cause cold and flu.viii
    • Two-thirds of all kitchen soap dispensers (pump handles) were contaminated, with an average of 4.5 million bacteria microorganisms detected, including E. coli or fecal contamination.viii

Recommendations to Help Prevent Cold and Flu

  • It's important to take the proper steps to help prevent the spread of germs that cause cold and flu:
    • Get vaccinated with a seasonal flu shot.ix The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccination.iv
    • Always practice proper etiquette when sneezing or blowing your nose.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water often and use hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to a sink.
    • Routinely clean and disinfect commonly touched surface areas in your home and workplace with products such as Lysol® Disinfectant Spray, especially when someone is sick.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), disinfecting products whose labels state that they are effective against Influenza A strains, such as Lysol® Disinfectant Spray, are also effective against H3N2v and other such strains.x
  • Wash your hands after having contact with animals, animal products or animal environments.xi
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Carry a plastic bag for disposing of dirty tissues while on the go. Make sure to wash your hands afterwards.
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth, as that may cause viruses to spread.xii
  • Make sure to wash your hands after coming into contact with the following places, as they are hotspots for flu and cold viruses:
    • Restaurant menu
    • Doorknobs (particularly in bathrooms)
    • Gas nozzle
    • Phones
    • TV remote control
    • Shopping carts
    • Light switch
    • Gym equipment
    • Public transportation
    • Movie theater seats/floors
    • Microwaves and faucet handles in office kitchens/breakrooms
  • Keep clean and dirty clothes in separate laundry baskets, as germs from dirty clothes can transfer onto freshly washed laundry.
  • Avoid contact with those who are sick.vii
  • If you're sick, stay home from work or school for at least 24 hours after your fever has dropped.xiii
  • Visit www.hygienecouncil.org, www.Lysol.com or www.flu.gov for additional cold and flu prevention tips.

i U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: http://pandemicflu.gov/individualfamily/about/seasonalflu/.

iiCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Children, the Flu and the Flu Vaccine. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/children.htm.

iiiCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). How Flu Spreads. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/spread.htm.

ivCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Seasonal Influenza (Flu). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/.

vH1N1 Study. Global Hygiene Council. 2010.

viU.S. School Swabbing Study. Global Hygiene Council. 2012.

viiBack-to-School Study. Global Hygiene Council. 2012.

viiiCross-Contamination Study. Global Hygiene Council. 2011.

ixCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm.

xEnvironmental Protection Agency (EPA). Antimicrobial Products Registered for Use Against the H1N1 Flu and Other Influenza A Viruses on Hard Surfaces. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/oppad001/influenza-disinfectants.html.

xiCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Guidelines for Animals in School and Child-Care Settings. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr6004a1.htm?s_cid=rr6004a1_w#AppD.

xiiCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). H3N2v and You. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v-basics.htm.

xiiiCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Flu: What To Do If You Get Sick. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm.