How to reduce the spread of the influenza virus and make your home healthier.
As the influenza season begins, it is important to realize that one in every 20 doctor visits will be flu related. There are many things you can do to lessen your chances of contracting the virus, but no one strategy is 100 percent effective. Health officials recommend getting a yearly flu vaccine and frequent hand washing. Hand washing may be the single best way to stop the transmission of the disease.
While you cannot control the environment in your workplace or at school, there are things you can do at home to protect you and your family in case there is an emergency.
In case there is a widespread outbreak of influenza, you can track the spread of the flu on the internet at such places as the Centers for Disease Control, CDC.
Or Flu Trends through Google
There are several items and places that are frequently touched that are key transmission points for the influenza virus. Faucets, telephones, toys, computer mouse and keyboard, and doorknobs are popular sites for virus and bacteria. If someone is sick at home, disinfect daily, especially the remote control and the phone. When someone starts to feel rundown they usually relax and watch television or surf the Net. A recent study found that sixty percent of remote controls contain influenza virus in the home of a sick person.
Since the virus spreads through touching, anything that a sick person has also touched, or an object that's been sneezed on needs to be cleaned often and cleaning off the areas where your hand goes is most important.
Work Areas and Desks
Desktops have several hundred times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Disinfect your desktop weekly, along with the rest of the house. This could reduce your exposure to colds and flu by as much as 50 percent.
Your kitchen sponge should be replaced every couple of weeks. If you don’t want to toss a perfectly good sponge, you can microwave it for one minute or run it in the dishwasher to eliminate germs.
Dust rags, dishrags, mops and other cleaning tools can spread around the germs you are trying to kill. Often a cleaner home has more viruses present than messier ones. Continuously cleaning with contaminated items simply pushes around the virus and cross-contaminates other surfaces.
When there is a sick individual in your home, rely on paper towels for your cleaning needs. You can also machine wash and dry cleaning tools at high temperatures so your house is clean and germ-free.
Many cleaning products state that they are "anti-bacterial" on the label. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a list of 500 products that disinfect hard, non-porous, surfaces against flu. It includes common household cleaners such as Pin Sol, Clorox, and Lysol. Look for the word "disinfect" or "sanitize" on the label; that means the EPA has tested and approved its germ killing power.
Some alternatives such as lemon juice, tea tree oil, oregano oil, or lavender oil have properties that kill microbes but these natural alternatives often work more slowly and may not work on a wide range of microorganisms.
Newer appliances can help you with disinfecting. The next time you need to purchase a new appliances, take a look at the list of household appliances cited by the NSF International (formerly the National Sanitations Foundation). This group has a large list of germ-fighting appliances that include clothes dryers, dishwashers, and washing machines. They also have a list of other household items such as kitchen utensils, faucets, filtration systems, and even cutting boards.
Speaking of cutting boards, there is often a debate of whether wood or plastic is a cleaner surface for a cutting board is more about food-borne pathogens than about flu virus. Germs of any kind can live on either one, so it’s more a concern with food poisoning than an issue with the flu. While plastic cutting boards can go into your dishwasher for cleaning, if you wash the cutting boards by hand, the surface becomes scarred with slices that hold onto bacteria and germs. Wood cutting boards do not become damaged like plastics boards, so consider using a plastic board when cutting meat that you can place in the dishwasher and a wooden cutting board that you can cut fruits and vegetables on.
There are at least six occasions each day when children should wash their hands. Help them keep track of all the daytime activities when hand washing is important: before mealtime, before playing with babies, after playing with friends, after coming home from school, after using the bathroom, and after every cough or sneeze.
Copper and Silver and Antimicrobial Coatings
Bacteria and viruses can live about twenty minutes on clothing and furniture cushions, but they can live a several days on countertops and other hard, non-porous, surfaces. Silver, copper and copper alloys, such as bronze and brass have been approved by the EPA as being effective for killing bacteria and research suggests it has anti-viral properties, as well.
Consider installing a copper sink for the bathroom or kitchen, or faucets, doorknobs, and switch plates that have silver antimicrobial coatings or non-lacquered brass or copper finishes.
You can also buy antimicrobial covers that you can install on your existing faucet handles and doorknobs. Hyline Safety Company also has an inexpensive Home Modification Kit for $16.95.
Some research has shown that an increase in humidity can make it harder for viruses to thrive and multiply. Using a humidifier can help minimize the spread of the flu virus.
Use caution when using humidifiers as they can breed bacteria. Individual units must be cleaned regularly, and a whole house system serviced yearly, usually during the summer months when the unit is not needed.
Installing a Bypass Humidifier
Ultraviolet Air Purifiers
To supplement other strategies used to limit the spread of viruses in your home, ultraviolet air purification systems keep mold and fungi from developing in your heating and cooling system. Both mold and fungi can aggravate the flu.
See my related article here: https://knoji.com/how-to-clean-your-hvac-system-with-coil-combs-chemicals-or-ultraviolet-light/
Air Cleaners and Filtration
Traditional filters catch larger particles such as bacteria, pollen, and mold spores and only a virus traveling on a larger host can get caught by the filter.
The problem with media or electronic filters is that they only work while the system is on. When properly used, an electronic air cleaner on your furnace or air handling unit captures 99 percent of the larger particles, and some of the smaller particles.