The flu is always an annoyance, but this year the virus has upped the ante by proving to be a downright danger. And even if you never catch the nasty bug, if you own or manage commercial buildings, you too could be feeling the aches and pains associated with keeping your commercial tenants safe.
Without fail, the flu season occurs every fall and winter. Typically, the season begins in December and reaches its peak in February. However, this season has been particularly bad, starting earlier and seeing numbers of those affected by the virus still rise after reaching usual peak levels.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans are still in the thick of the flu season, with 49 out of 50 states (Hawaii being the odd state out) affected. Recent reports have recognized this season as being worse than the 2009 Swine Flu, and experts say this year’s flu season has been the worst in decades.
The seriousness of the flu this year has been tentatively linked to a few factors: a less effective vaccine, multiple strains (some not prevented by vaccination), and a shortage in Tamiflu, the medicine used to help treat the symptoms of the flu. The result has led to a higher amount of people affected, with many being sick for weeks and in need of hospitalization. The flu has also already been accountable for more than 4,000 deaths, as of a count taken in the third week of January.
New estimates show the flu season could cost businesses at least $15.4 billion in lost productivity, according to a study released by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. As a commercial building owner or manager, you can help reduce the risks and keep tenants and their customers safe in public places where germs spread more easier.
Work with your hired cleaning service or train your janitorial staff to be vigilant about cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly. Be sure to focus on high “traffic” areas, such as light switches, door knobs, faucets, and hand railings. The CDC recommends the use of disinfectants such as hydrogen peroxide, chlorine bleach and quaternary ammonium-based cleaners to knock out the flu virus.
Avoid the need to touch surfaces by installing no-touch trash cans, hand dryers or paper towel dispensers, hand soap, bathroom faucets, and hand sanitizer, as well as self-flushing toilets.
Hang signs in common areas and provide brochures to tenants about the steps they can take to reduce their risk of getting the flu virus.
The CDC says it’s not too late for people to still get vaccinated. Consider working with a medical vendor to provide on-site flu shots, or provide coupons or referral information for flu shot availability in the area.
If you commercial building offers residential living, make face masks available in common areas for people who are sick but don’t want to risk spreading the virus.
Consider changing out air filters more frequently during flu season to help keep the building free of contaminants and germs.
If you or your maintenance employees get the flu, encourage them to stay home until the virus has passed. This will limit the flu exposure within your own building. Encourage tenants with employees to instruct their staff to do the same, if possible.
Avoid the spread of germs by encouraging tenants and employees to wash their hands often. Hang signs in bathrooms, and install hand sanitizer stations in common areas.
Don’t let flu season run you or your commercial tenants down this season. Be proactive to help your building steer clear of the virus. In the meantime, think spring!
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