How long does it take one sick person to infect an entire building? As little as 2 hours.
Researchers took a virus that behaves similarly to Norovirus (which is highly transmissible as it’s hard to kill and survives on surfaces for days) and rubbed it on a few commonly touched surfaces like elevator buttons, door knobs, etc. Then they came back and tested other surfaces throughout the building, like light switches, tables, and found that the virus had spread to 40-60% of those surfaces within the first 2 hours.
That pretty clearly illustrates the importance of handwashing, and explains how you get outbreaks like the high-profile cruise ship Norovirus outbreaks, the current Enterovirus outbreak, and how something like Ebola could spread quickly (a sick person visits a hospital/office, touches a few doorknobs, an elevator button, the pen in reception, maybe a magazine…).
The upside is researchers also looked at the effect of cleaning. They used special cleaners containing QUATS—quaternary ammonium compounds— known to be effective on the virus they used (and others like Norovirus) and reduced the presence of the virus by over 80% and the concentration by 99+%.
Of course, that doesn’t cover airborne particles—fortunately, most of the scariest outbreaks aren’t airborne (Enterovirus is, but so far it hasn’t been deadly).
How do you fight against it?
Designate someone in the office to do an hourly wipe-down of commonly touched surfaces in elevators, reception, conference rooms, etc. Even if you aren’t using QUATS or other less common cleaning agents, you’ll be disrupting the growth (I love the analogy of kicking down anthills).
Wash your hands frequently, and always after using the bathroom and before eating or touching your face.
Stay home if you feel like you’re getting sick, don’t wait until it’s full blown. You’ll be giving your immune system a chance to start fighting it off, and you’ll avoid spreading it around (and note a lot of the illnesses can be caught more than once).
And continue to support your immune system throughout the rest of Enterovirus season as well as cold and flu season as it starts up!
Do these results surprise you?