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 Special Report

The power to banish winter bugs is in our hands

Suzanne DeMaine, European marketing manager for GOJO Europe, explains how good hand hygiene can help companies reduce the risks when it comes to absenteeism caused by common winter illnesses.

Autumn was oncememo- rably described as ‘the sea- son ofmists andmellow fruitfulness’, and it certainly bringsmuch to enjoy, such as the changing colours of the leaves, bonfire night, and log fires. However, it also ushers in something considerably less enjoyable - the start of the winter bugs season. As well asminor prob-

lems such as coughs and colds,more serious infec- tions like flu or the winter vomiting disease can cause significant distress and in- convenience to those that acquire them. This has a knock-on effect for busi- nesses who suffer the extra costs, reduced service lev- els, and dips in customer satisfaction that can follow when employees take time off work because they are ill.

This is borne out by offi-

cial statistics. According to ‘Fit for purpose’, the CBI’s absence and workplace health survey 2013, the di- rect cost to the UK economy in 2012 was £14 billion. These figures show a de- crease of £3 billion on 2011, which is amove in the right direction, but it is still a sig- nificant amount ofmoney to lose in what remains a chal- lenging economic climate.

Winter bugs towatch out for

The ‘common’ cold is something with which we are all familiar, withmost adults catching between two and four of thema year. Thismild, viral infection of the nose, throat, sinuses and upper airways can

cause a blocked/runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat and a cough. NHS Direct says thatmore

than 200 types of virus can cause a cold, but thosemost responsible for causing them belong to two groups - rhi- noviruses and coronaviruses. Because a number of viruses can cause a cold it is, unfor- tunately, possible to have several colds, one after the other, as each one is caused by a different virus. Flu is amuchmore seri-

ousmatter. It is caused by a different group of viruses to those that cause ‘standard’ colds, and the symptoms tend to bemore severe, as well as lasting for longer. In its Seasonal Flu Plan 2012/13, the Department of Health describes flu as ‘an unpredictable but recurring pressure that the NHS faces during the winter’. Influenza (most commonly referred to as flu) is an acute viral infec- tion of the respiratory tract, characterised by the onset of fever, chills, headache,mus- cle and joint pain, and fa- tigue. Other symptoms can include a cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and diar- rhoea. Flu is passed fromperson

to person through droplets created when someone with the infection sneezes or coughs. It can also be spread through contact with sur- faces on which the virus has been deposited -making hand hygiene evenmore im- portant. The winter vomiting dis-

ease is something that regu- larly hits the headlines thanks to its ability to se- verely affect the health serv- ice, sometimes even closing

12 l C&M l NOVEMBER 2013 l

down whole wards at a time. Although it ismore promi- nent during the winter months, it can occur at any time of the year. According to the Health

Protection Agency, which is now part of Public Health England, the winter vomiting disease is themost common cause of infectious gastroen- teritis (diarrhoea and vomit- ing) in England andWales. It is highly infectious,making outbreaks in semi-closed environments such as hospi- tals, nursing homes,

schools, and cruise ships more likely.

Good hand hygiene can help

Whatever your walk of life or occupation, some disruption to everyday activities be- cause of viruses is inevitable - but helping to prevent the risk of themspreading is something over which we can all have an influence. All the bugs and nasties I

have described in this article are caused by different viruses and have different symptoms, but they do have something in common - the role that good hand hygiene can play. Cleaning hands regularly and thoroughly is essential - particularly after

being in contact with some- one who is ill, after using the toilet, and before and after handling food. Given all this information,

making sure that workplace washrooms are equipped with accessible, attractive dispensing systems, and formulations that are effec- tive but also kind to the skin, has never beenmore essential.Wishing you a happy - and sneeze-free - winter!

Formore information about hand hygiene solutions fromGOJO call 01908 588444, email or visit united-kingdom.

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