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Protecting workplace occupants from COVID-19 and flu

Now, with the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing and flu season well underway, business owners and facility managers must be even more vigilant about protecting the health and safety of workplace occupants. While both SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and influenza (flu) viruses cause respiratory disease, knowing more about their similarities and differences, and how each can spread, can help implement the necessary measures to protect against virus outbreaks and transmission in the workplace.  

Let’s take a closer look at the overall dynamics of the similarities and differences of these viruses as well as the practical challenges associated with maintaining a clean, healthy, and safe workplace:

SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and influenza (flu) similarities  

  • From a scientific perspective, both influenza and SARS-CoV-2 are categorized as enveloped viruses, which means that the individual viral cell has an outer wrapping or envelope. As enveloped viruses, both are relatively fragile, so standard cleaning and disinfecting practices should be sufficient to remove or kill them.
  • The flu and COVID-19 are both primarily spread via small, virus-laced particles called respiratory droplets that are released when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or simply exhales. Someone nearby may inhale these droplets or become infected through physical contacts such as handshaking or hugging, followed by touching their own nose or mouth. Respiratory droplets can also land on surfaces and objects.
  • Both viruses can live for a time on surfaces outside the human body. According to the Center for Diseases and Prevention (CDC), it may be possible to contract both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza by touching a surface or object with the virus on it and then touching your face (eyes, nose, ears, or mouth).  However, both viruses are believed to mostly spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. 
  • Physical distancing policies to limit COVID-19 transmission, such as staying 6 feet apart from others can also be effective against the transmission and spread of influenza. Masks can also help slow the spread of COVID-19 and flu because they help keep people who are infected from spreading respiratory droplets to others when they cough, sneeze, or talk. 
  • Both the SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses are sensitive to alcohol-based sanitizers and soap. Frequent hand washing, the use of sanitizers when soap and water are unavailable, and respiratory etiquette (e.g., coughing into one’s elbow, immediately disposing of used tissues) are effective ways to reduce transmission. 
  • Both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses primarily infect cells of the lungs and respiratory tract. As a result, symptoms and transmission modes are tightly linked to respiration processes. 
  • Both Influenza and the virus that causes COVID-19 may be spread to others before an individual begins showing symptoms or very mild symptoms or no developed symptoms (asymptomatic). Common symptoms that both viruses share include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue (tiredness), sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, and headache. 
  • Both Influenza and SARS-CoV-2 can remain on surfaces for up to several days. SARS-CoV-2 can remain active on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for two to three days, and remain infectious for up to 24 hours on cardboard. Influenza can remain active on objects and surfaces such as doorknobs, faucets, and tables for up to 48 hours. Both viruses tend to live longer on objects or surfaces in environments with lower temperatures, low humidity, and low sunlight.

SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and influenza (flu) differences  

  • Compared to COVID-19, the Influenza virus has a shorter incubation period (the time from infection to appearance of symptoms) and a shorter serial interval (the time between successive cases). Typically, a person with COVID-19 develops symptoms 5 days after being infected, but symptoms can appear as early as 2 days after infection or as late as 14 days after infection, and the time range can vary. A person with the flu will typically develop symptoms anywhere from 1 to 4 days after infection.
  • A person who has contracted COVID-19 may be contagious for a longer period of time than if they had the flu. According to a recent study published in The Lancet, SARS-CoV-2 viral load tends to peak during the first week of illness, making someone with COVID-19 most infectious two days before symptom onset until about five days after. Most people with COVID-19 who have symptoms will no longer be contagious by 10 days after symptoms resolve. Most people with the flu are contagious for about 1 day before they show symptoms and appear to be most contagious during the initial 3-4 days of their illness, but some can remain contagious for up to 7 days.
  • SARS-CoV-2 can spread more easily than the flu and has been observed to have more superspreader events than Influenza. This means that the virus can spread quickly and easily among many people and result in continuous spreading as time goes on. 
  • While the range of symptoms (listed above) for the two viruses is similar, COVID-19 seems to cause more serious illnesses in some people. Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from influenza, may include a change in or loss of taste or smell. 
  • There are multiple vaccines produced annually to protect people against the 3 or 4 influenza strains that scientists anticipate will circulate each year. Unlike the flu, SARS-CoV-2 is a novel virus, and until only recently, there were no available treatments or immunity to the virus when it emerged in late 2019. COVID-19 was able to spread from person to person unrestrained, and it didn’t take long for the virus outbreak to become a worldwide pandemic. 

Comparison of COVID-19 and flu disease dynamics    

Commercial Cleaning Services

Infographic source: American Society for Microbiology

Cleaning for health

The key to preventing the transmission and spread of germs, virus, and other infectious diseases in the workplace is to maintain a consistent cleaning and disinfecting routine. In order to properly clean and safely disinfect your facility, you must first understand how to properly identify and use the right products. A plan must also be in place for consistently disinfecting high-touch surfaces and using chemicals appropriately. Proper disinfection includes matching the right chemicals for your needs with the correct protocol.  

The efficacy of the disinfection process is affected by a number of factors such as prior cleaning of the object; the organic and inorganic load present; the type and level of microbial contamination; the concentration of and exposure time to the disinfectant.; the presence of biofilms; the temperature and pH of the disinfection process. To ensure that a disinfectant can kill both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza, you can refer to the manufacturer’s website or the EPA’s “List N” of approved disinfectants. Products should always be used according to the  directions on the label. 

Hiring a reputable commercial cleaning service 

Providing a properly cleaned workplace is a service that protects the business owner, employees, and those who visit the establishment. Businesses that don’t have the time or experience to maintain proper cleaning and disinfection protocols should consider hiring a commercial cleaning service. A reputable and experienced cleaning company like Cleanstart can help business owners and facility managers develop a healthy workplace program that includes regular cleaning visits that will keep your facility clean, safe, and healthy.  

Cleanstart has been in the commercial cleaning and janitorial industry for over 27 years. We provide quality cleaning services for a wide range of businesses large and small including offices (office buildings), warehouses, fitness facilities, industrial facilities, medical facilities, dental offices, churches, private clubs, entertainment venues, and more.  

We will meet with you to discuss a cleaning plan tailored to your specific needs and schedule while minimizing downtime to your operations. Daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning visits are available as well as after-hour and one-time, emergency cleaning visits. We guarantee our services – If for whatever reason our 5-star quality cleaning service standard is not met, we will make it right by correcting the issue within one business day.

Request a free estimate now! 

Our professional cleaners are trained in the latest cleaning and disinfection methods and protocols for combatting coronavirus, influenza, and other infectious diseases established by the CDC, EPA, and WHO, and observe all OSHA safety regulations standards. Our cleaning team wears the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect themselves from exposure to contaminants and cleaning chemicals, which are always used according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Cleanstart’s combination of proven processes, high standards, and uncompromising customer service take commercial cleaning and disinfecting services to the next level.

✓ Over 27 years in the cleaning and janitorial industry
✓ Professionally trained janitorial specialists
✓ Committed to the highest quality of clean
✓ Local, licensed, bonded & insured
✓ 24/7 cleaning options & support
✓ Customized cleaning solutions
✓ 100% satisfaction guarantee
✓ OSHA, HIPAA, EPA, CDC, AORN compliant
✓  A+ BBB-rating

If you are looking for an experienced and reliable commercial cleaning and janitorial service, you can count on the experts at Cleanstart. For more information about our quality services or to request a free estimate, please give us a call today at (253) 921-2593 or you can request a free online estimate.

Where we service in the PNW 

Auburn, Bellevue, Bellingham, Bonney Lake, Bremerton, Factoria, Fife, Gig Harbor, Kent, Lakewood, Olympia, Puyallup, Renton, Seattle, Tacoma, Tukwila, University Place, King County, Kitsap County, Pierce County, and Thurston County.


5013 Pacific Hwy E unit 16 Fife, WA 98424 • Phone: 253.921.2593 • Email: Caleb @ thecleanstart.com 


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