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The most important way to reduce the spread of infections is hand washing - always wash regularly with soap and water. Also important is to get a vaccine for those infections and viruses that have one, when available.
See the OSH Answers Hand Washing - Reducing the Risk of Common Infections for more details.
This OSH Answers document will discuss other methods beyond hand washing that can also help to slow or stop the spread of infections.
Ways you can reduce or slow the spread of infections include:
Note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that adults can shed influenza virus 1 day before symptoms appear and up to approximately 5 to 7 days after onset of illness. It is for this reason, wearing masks selectively, such as when face-to-face with individuals who are showing symptoms, may not help limit the spread of the virus in the community.
Workplaces can help by having an infection control plan which includes:
Special handling of linen or waste contaminated with secretions from persons thought to be or who are sick is not required.
Additional measures may be required to minimize the virus from transmitting by hard surfaces (sinks, door and cupboard handles, railings, objects, counters, etc.). The length of time a virus survives on hard surfaces depends on the type of virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States indicates that "Most studies have shown that the flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for up to 48 hours after being deposited on a surface."
In most workplaces and homes, cleaning floors, walls, doorknobs, etc. with household disinfectants or bleach solution (5 millilitres (mL) of (5%) bleach per 250 mL of water is recommended. Follow the directions on the cleaning or disinfecting products. Wear personal protective clothing, such as gloves or eye protection, where required. Know the appropriate procedures for general sanitation and infection control, and how to work safely with hazardous products, including bleach.
If using gloves when cleaning, always wear the appropriate type of glove for the product you are using. No one glove material is resistant to all chemicals. Some chemicals will travel through or permeate the glove in a few seconds, while other chemicals may take days or weeks.
Information specifying the best type of chemical protective material is what should be on the safety data sheet (SDS) (e.g., glove material will be listed, such as neoprene, butyl rubber, natural rubber, etc.). If this information is missing, contact the supplier or manufacturer of the product. Manufacturers of chemical protective gloves and clothing may also assist their customers in making the appropriate choices.
For more information about wearing protective gloves, please see the OSH Answers document on Chemical Protective Clothing – Glove Selection.
Only in some workplaces, such as a hospital or health care facility, are specific cleaning and disinfection steps required.
Social distancing is a strategy where you try to avoid crowded places, large gatherings of people or close contact with a group of people. In these situations, viruses can easily spread from person to person. In general, a distance of one to two metres (3 to 6 feet) will slow the spread of a disease, but more distance is more effective.
Should social distancing be recommended, steps to follow include:
Reasons to determine "fitness to work" may depend on a number of issues such as job responsibilities of employees, ability to do the job safely, ease of working from home (via internet), etc.
Generally, employees should be allowed and encouraged to stay at home if they are not feeling well. However, in the event of a pandemic, use screening tools or a list of symptoms as a checklist. If employees are showing any signs, allow them to go or remain at home. If there is doubt if a person is sick, they should stay home until they feel well and are able to resume their regular activities.
NOTE: During a situation where a virus is spreading in the community, information is likely to change rapidly. Please see OSH Answers on Pandemic Influenza or Coronavirus for a list of agencies that can help.