Yup, it’s that time of year again. Teachers and students are starting to drop like flies from the flu and, from what I’m hearing from colleagues, from norovirus as well. While this is never a good time of year for trying to stay healthy, this year seems particularly bad with the H1N1 strain of the flu being a seriously unpleasant version and norovirus being even worse. Not only do I want to keep the children in my care and my staff healthy, but quite frankly, I don’t want to bring either of these illnesses home to my family either.
That said, how do we keep everyone healthy? It boils down to two main strategies; cleanliness and making sure that individuals who are sick are not in your program. This week we’ll focus on cleanliness and next week we’ll talk about exclusion of ill individuals.
Earlier today, I was reading an interesting article about a potential norovirus outbreak in an elder care facility. One of the administrators observed that, while staff are diligent about handwashing, the residents are not always able to maintain the same level of attentiveness. I see that problem as being extremely pertinent to our programs. We can have the best policies in place for hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting and staff who follow our policies to the letter, but if we don’t spend just as much time ensuring that the children wash their hands, it could all be for naught. Not only do we need to make sure that they wash their hands at the appropriate times, we need to make sure that they wash them correctly. (a friend used to threaten to record me saying “with soap” so that we could just play it back for my sons instead of me saying it over and over)
Good handwashing practices, properly covering coughs and sneezes, and diligent cleaning and sanitizing will go a long way in keeping everyone healthy this year. And, if you have chosen to not use bleach as a disinfectant in your program, make sure that you check the FDA’s list of disinfectants that kill the norovirus. This is one tough, nasty bug.