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FEATURE Scrub To Survive

With the onset of cold, wet weather, it is vital that businesses and staff have effective hygiene standards in place to reduce the chances of colds, ‘flu and other illnesses entering the workplace. Employees become increasingly vulnerable to illness in the winter months, especially in offices and premises where there is a high density of people. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) estimates that sickness among working age people costs Britain £100billion per year. A report conducted by the Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) and Initial Washroom Hygiene identified that by improving workplace hygiene, it is within employers’ power to reduce this figure by 13%, and in turn save the economy £13.7billion, or £700 per employee.

Very contagious infections, such as Norovirus and the common cold, are often passed from person to person through indirect contact; for example via an infected person’s environment or personal belongings. This ease of transmission tends to make them much more prevalent, but simple hygiene steps, such as regular and thorough hand washing is one of the most effective ways of preventing their spread.

Here are five examples of microbe- borne illnesses that employers and employees should be aware of, but that can be avoided with the correct hygiene measures:

Norovirus This is also known as the winter vomiting bug and came to our attention in recent years after some significant outbreaks in the UK. Each


year it is estimated that between 600,000 and one million people in the UK catch Norovirus.

Norovirus is spread through indirect contact (through the air or via a surface), as well as directly, but the infectious dose is extremely low, meaning it can spread quickly and affect a large number of people in a short space of time.

The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that sickness among working age people costs Britain £100billion per year.

Flu (Influenza) The respiratory illness known as ‘flu’ can be caused by a number of different viruses of the influenza type and is more common in the winter months. Transmission of flu is either through microscopic droplets as a result of coughing/sneezing, or by direct or indirect nasal, oral or eye contact with hands or surfaces carrying the virus. These methods of transmission highlight the importance of hand washing and hygiene in preventing the illness.

For infections which can be airborne, such as influenza, other measures can be taken to lower the levels of potentially infectious microorganisms circulating in the air within busy buildings. These include inconspicuous floor or wall-mounted air disinfection units which circulate and recycle air quickly and silently through an ultraviolet disinfection system.

Dr Peter Barratt, Technical Manager at Initial Washroom Hygiene, has labelled hand washing as a basic survival skill against common illness, as he explains how to avoid germs this winter.


(‘stomach bug’) Gastroenteritis is a broad term for a number of viral and bacterial infections of the intestinal tract. Some common causal microorganisms include Campylobacter and rotaviruses. Gastroenteritis is rarely fatal, and commonly clears up within three to five days from the onset of symptoms. It is thought that almost every child will have at least one episode of gastroenteritis before the age of five.

The virus is transferred to food/ objects if the infected person does not wash their hands properly after visiting the toilet. As it can be common amongst children, it is vital that parents teach their children the importance of proper hand washing from an early age.

Listeriosis – Food

poisoning Listeriosis is an example of a specific type of ‘food poisoning’ and is caused by the bacterium Listeria. As with many of the illnesses mentioned so far symptoms usually pass within three days. However, in very rare instances, when the bacteria multiply within the body and cause more harm, Listeria can be fatal.

Listeria bacteria are able to grow in a variety of foods, under a wide range of conditions, and so the food industry is very careful to practice good food and hand hygiene to avoid the risk of Listeriosis.

Diseases associated with

antibiotic-resistant bacteria In recent years, strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been found in the UK and have

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