We talked with hygiene expert Zsuzsa Nagy, head of the Hospital Cleaning Branch of B+N Referencia Zrt., about questions concerning viral diseases, personal and professional solutions.
Let’s start at the beginning. What is a virus? How is it different from a bacterium?
The only thing bacteria and viruses have in common is that they make a susceptible organism ill, and might cause similar symptoms. Beyond that, there is not much similarity between them, which means efficient protection requires medicine with different modes of action. Only laboratory tests can determine with certainty whether it was a bacterium or a virus that caused the illness, however, based on the procession of the illness, the doctor can tell the type of pathogen they are facing.
What are the best-known viral illnesses?
Flu is the best-known viral illness of mankind. If a person with flu sneezes or coughs, their environment may get infected in a 3-meter radius. That’s why it is so important to use a napkin and cover our mouth and face with it – to protect ourselves and others.
However, there are other viral diseases like chickenpox, measles, herpes, mumps, polio, HIV, HPV and Ebola.
With the flu season in a rampage, you may ask: what can we do at home, at our workplace or during travelling by public transport to avoid the disease?
The most efficient way of flu prevention is vaccination, with the use of which we not only protect ourselves but also our surroundings since there are people who are susceptible to the virus but cannot be inoculated (e.g. babies under 6 months old).
The risk of infection can be further reduced by avoiding crowded places and adhering to general personal hygienic rules, especially hand hygiene and coughing-sneezing etiquette. It is important to teach our children the appropriate hygienic practices as well.
- When coughing or sneezing, hold a handkerchief in front of your mouth and nose. Should you not have a handkerchief on you, at least try to sneeze/cough into your elbow, not your palm.
- After using a handkerchief, throw it in the dustbin.
- Wash your hands often with hot water and soap (especially after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose and using your handkerchief).
- Before washing your hands, do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Always wash your hands before eating or smoking.
- During the pandemic, avoid regular forms of greeting (handshake, kiss).
- If possible, avoid contact with ill people.
- Disinfect frequently used objects and surfaces (desk, keyboard, handle, phone, keys, etc.) regularly.
- In closed rooms make sure the area is aired frequently.
- If you detect the symptoms of flu on yourself, stay home.
- If you detect the symptoms of flu on yourself, use a disposable mask.
- During the pandemic, try not to visit crowded places, especially closed areas and elevators.
Hungarians are concerned about the coronavirus too. What can we do to avoid infection?
Currently, there is no coronavirus infection in Hungary, and if everyone observes the regulations at their own level, the pandemic should be avoided. The most important preventive measure is stopping the virus from entering the country. Due to the coronavirus, passengers coming from China are tested with body heat cameras and contact-free thermometers at the airport, alcohol based hand sanitizers have been deployed and there is a general disinfection regime in place. Our colleagues also take part in the preventive process. However, should the virus enter the country, further, stricter measures would be introduced.
Is there a special to-do list concerning the coronavirus?
The travel restriction to the infected areas is obvious. However, if you are in an infected area, wear a mask on public transport vehicles and keep the guidelines, i.e. do not reuse disposable masks because if you touch your mask after getting into contact with an infected object, it becomes a virus carrier too. Avoid consuming raw meat and dairy products, especially if the source is unknown, do not go into crowded places and always keep the hygiene rules.
Coming home or having met a person coming from a high-risk area, if you have high temperature, cough or have difficulty breathing, please, do not hesitate to consult your local doctor.
Many people do not dare to even order from China fearing that objects can be virus carriers too. How long does the virus survive under these circumstances?
Viruses getting out of the host can survive for varying periods of time. There has been no single case proving that the coronavirus can spread through objects. It is quite similar to SARS and MERS, which we know only survive for a few hours on objects, therefore, the risk of the virus surviving the several week-shipping is low. Packages coming from China can be received, they do not cause infection.
What can a professional cleaning company do to detain a viral infection?
During a pandemic, a professional company provides free vaccination for their employees. In addition, the hygiene experts of the company provide continuous training for the cleaners to update them on the personal and cleaning hygienic regulations. It is also really important to continuously provide appropriate personal protective equipment (mask, gloves, alcohol-based hand sanitizer) for the workers (cleaners and laundry staff).
On the other hand, in order to prevent the spread of the virus, it is very important to air frequently visited facilities and clean frequently used surfaces with antivirus detergents. Such surfaces are
- door buttons, handles and the cockpit on public transport vehicles and passenger areas
- handrail of escalators, buttons of vending machines
- in offices: switches, door handles, push button telephones next to canteens and office desks, keyboards and mouse devices
- in buildings: handrails, elevator control buttons
- in restrooms: toilet seats, flush handles, flush buttons, taps, handlebars and emergency buttons of accessible toilets, surfaces of baby changing rooms and electric hand dryers.
In addition, virucidal hand sanitizers are deployed in areas accessible to everyone.
In order to ensure the safety of patients and health care workers, in health care institutions hand-reach surfaces are to be cleaned with virucidal disinfectant.
‘Sick-wards designated for flu patients can be cleaned only by cleaners having received vaccination and wearing a protective suit. Seclusion rooms need separate cleaning equipment and detergents. After the pandemic has ended, seclusion rooms undergo a closing disinfection’, said Zsuzsa Nagy, head of the Hospital Cleaning Branch of B+N Referencia Zrt.