Sometimes, we worry that even if someone was here an hour ago, anything they touched or coughed on could still be a source of infection. But, a lot of different materials have widely different surface viability for different pathogens and viruses. According to one study, SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19) can live on cardboard for only around three hours, but it may be able to last on plastic for up to three days. These numbers are different for every single infectious pathogen, and that’s not to mention the amount of time the contaminants can live in the air. Below, we will be taking a deeper look at some of these numbers for common flu as well as how this knowledge can help you to manage seasonal outbreaks in your workplace.
Why These Numbers Matter
Seasonal viruses like the flu start to have a huge impact come winter, when normal flu season, bronchitis and similar tend to have a large impact each year. This year, however, they will have more of an impact because they will be happening alongside COVID-19, meaning knowledge and preparation is key. It can inform you when you need to sanitize a particular surface, and when you don’t need to overly worry about a different surface. If you know the facts, you will know what to do and when to do it to reduce the transmission of contagious pathogens. You will know that you are taking all the steps you can for the prevention of spreading viruses.
How the Flu Survives on Different Surfaces
One disease that is common every year is the “common flu.” This is a bit of a misnomer, as there is nothing particularly common about each flu. There are a lot of different strains, which is why getting an influenza vaccine is so important. Each vaccine covers several different strains that are most likely to be common, which is why flu shots save so many lives—especially in a time like this.
When it comes to preventing the spread of the flu in an office setting, the virus can live on fabrics for roughly ten hours. This means a lot of hand washing and clothes washing is necessary if you spend a long time in public or wear a coat to and from the office. It can also live for up to three days on hard surfaces like metal doors, and it is most infectious 24–48 hours after first being passed to those surfaces. Interestingly enough, our hands produce an immune-system response topically, meaning the virus only lives for five minutes on your hands or outside but on the body. The same is also true of the “common cold” when it comes to survival outside the body.
How Taking the Right Precautions Makes a Difference
Even with the flu having a .002% death rate according to the CDC, 250–500,000 people die every year from the flu worldwide. This translates to nearly a billion infections each year, nearly 9% of the world’s population, and over 3–5 million severe cases. But with proper preparation and knowledge of how to disinfect your workplace, you can help lead to a huge reduction in vulnerability. Hiring a team to clean your facility’s most vulnerable areas and furnish supplies can also help make a significant difference.
This also extends to making sure that people are practicing proper social distancing when possible, as well as making sure that anyone who feels sick is staying home. The flu, when someone is just coughing uncovered, can live outside the body in the air for 1-3 hours at a minimum. It’s not worth risking an outbreak in your workplace if someone develops a cough, even if they think it’s just allergies.