Managing Seasonal Illness Through Facilities Management
Submitted by P. Barry
As a facilities manager, protecting the interests of the client is in the job description; health obviously being one of these interests. With winter fast-approaching, a threat to health in the form of seasonal illness is on the horizon. Of particular virulence, and therefore concern, is the Norovirus – a virus responsible for the vast majority of nonbacterial gastroenteritis cases in the U.S. each year.
This highly contagious virus is transmitted through contaminated food and water, the air, surfaces, and person-to-person contact, making outbreaks all too common; a school in NJ struck by the infection reported a 40% incidence just last week. Enclosed spaces increase the risk of communication, exemplified by the spike in cases from November to April when the winter months keep people indoors for extended periods of time. Symptoms of the Norovirus include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea – life threatening ailments to the vulnerable: young children, elderly, sick, and immune deficient. As such, FMs of the following types of institutions are advised to exercise extreme caution:
- · Medical Facilities and Hospitals
- · Nursing Homes
- · Universities & Schools
Due to its’ structural composition, the resilient Norovirus is susceptible to a select few countermeasures, namely heat or chlorine-based disinfectants. Facilities managers must adjust or supplement their cleaning solutions and routines accordingly, particularly during the winter months. Cleaning germ-latent, heavy traffic items – items like door handles, tabletops, remotes, etc – once a week or installing an air purifier can drastically reduce the likelihood of subsequent infection. Relatively small and inexpensive measures like these can go a long way in protecting the health of those you serve.Different types of facilities require different protocols. Care should be taken to understand these and other risks that can face patients, tenants, and clients of a high-risk facility.