3 Reasons to Re-think Disinfection Techniques to Fight the Flu

By Rosie Lyles, MD, MHA, MSc | February 5, 2018

You’ve likely seen the headlines. You’ve likely seen the reports and yes, we hear about the flu every year, but this year the numbers are indicative of what could be one of the most brutal in years. The CDC reports the number of people visiting doctors for flu-like illness is increasing. What’s even scarier is that the number of flu related death of children – more than 50. So far this season, influenza A, H3N2, has been the most common form of influenza. When H3 viruses are predominant, we tend to have a worse flu season with more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations and more deaths.

We still have a ways to go because the peak of flu season occurs anywhere from late November through March. While hospitals and clinicians are likely already taking the correct action, receiving the flu vaccine and following proper hand hygiene; they shouldn’t forget the importance of environmental cleaning. Proper routine cleaning is essential and is one effective infection control methods that can prevent transmission of the virus; influenza can live on surfaces for one to two days.¹

But we must disinfect correctly.

Keep surfaces wet

Keeping surfaces clean and disinfected will help in the containment of hospital-acquired infections. Making sure the environmental services staff use bleach or another EPA registered disinfectantflu cleaning are vital for minimizing the spread of infection, but I often see some staff bypassing another critical step. Always ensure the surface remains wet for the duration of the manufacturer-recommended contact time.

A strong focus should also be placed on the ICU, where flu patients often pass through. Studies have shown the most high-touched objects are the bed rails, call buttons, light switches, side or tray tables, and toilets.² We need to make sure those objects are remaining damp with disinfectant so that the next patient, who may be flu-free, doesn’t get infected as well.

Rosie Lyles, MD, says staff must use the proper disinfection techniques when battling the spread of the flu virus.

Choose the right products

When concerned about influenza, using bleach or another EPA-registered product with a label claim to kill these pathogens is the best option. Ready-to-use, EPA-registered disinfecting wipes, which kill influenza in one minute, are an easy option for staff as they do not need to be diluted before use. Ready-to-use products with no dilution or premixing required helps reduce the risk of staff error.

Isolation precautions

For patients with confirmed or suspected cases of influenza, minimize their movement within the facility and limit visitors. Infected staff should also stay home for 48 hours after the resolution of symptoms. Data shows three out of every four workers will not take sick leave and would prefer to go to work. Don’t be the hero and don’t put yourself, your colleagues or your patients at risk because as we’ve seen this flu season, it truly is all hands on deck.

We should not underestimate the power of simply cleaning to reduce the risk of transmitting the flu and other deadly pathogens. Cleaning removes dirt, soil, and impurities that harbor germs and viruses like influenza. Just as important, remember cleaning is often a necessary first step in disinfecting a surface, which actually kills the remaining germs.

Get the guidance you need for solutions grounded in best practice to help you fight and prevent the flu and other infections in your facility.


1. Kramer A. BMC Infectious Diseases 2006;6:130

2. Cleaning Hospital Room Surfaces to Prevent Health Care–Associated Infections. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4812669/. Annals of Internal Medicine. October 2015.


Rosie Lyles, MD

Director of Clinical Affairs

Rosie Lyles, MD, MHA, MSc is the director of clinical affairs at Medline. She was previously the head of clinical affairs at Clorox Healthcare where she served as the medical/clinical expert and primary medical science liaison for three healthcare businesses, supporting all scientific research, as well as clinical and product intervention design and development. Lyles has more than a decade of experience investigating hospital-associated infections (HAIs) with a particular focus on the epidemiology and prevention of multidrug-resistant organisms such as C. difficile, MRSA and CRE infections in acute care hospitals and long-term acute care hospitals as a physician-researcher at Cook County Health and Hospitals System. Lyles has also directed numerous clinical studies and interventions for the CDC and the Chicago Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Prevention Epicenter with numerous authored peer-reviewed journal articles related to infectious disease epidemiology. She is an active member of the Infectious Disease Society of America, Association for Healthcare Environment and the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America. Currently she serves as a grant reviewer for the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH / NIAID), manuscript reviewer for New England Journal of Medicine, American Journal of Infection Control, medical reviewer for U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for HSR&D Scientific Merit Board, and Medical Advisory Board for C. Diff Foundation. Rosie received her medical degree from St. Matthew's University School of Medicine and completed a master's in Health Service Administration at St. Joseph College and a master's of Science in Clinical Research and Translational Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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