Winter is Coming

Winter is coming. And that means there’s going to be a peak in illnesses such as Norovirus and Influenza. It happens every year and it’s easy to predict. But it’s also easy to protect yourself and those around you with some simple cleaning and hygiene tips. At Diversey, our annual “Are You Ready?” campaign is designed to offer help and guidance to minimise the risks from these and other common illnesses.

Norovirus (sometimes called Winter Vomiting Disease) is unpleasant at the best of times. It causes considerable and sudden discomfort to anyone unfortunate to suffer it, with symptoms including vomiting and diarrhoea, although most people will recover after a few days. Influenza (“the Flu”) can be more serious. Anyone with a weakened immune system – children, the elderly, people with an underlying health condition- can be at risk of severe consequences, including death.

Both illnesses are present all year round but statistics show that they peak during winter. Evidence suggests that viruses like these are more stable in cold air, so they can survive for longer and have more chance to infect someone new. The lower humidity associated with cooler temperatures also means that tiny water droplets containing the virus and produced by coughs or sneezes can remain airborne for longer, giving them more time contaminate a surface or be breathed in by someone.

On top of this, we all spend more time indoors during Winter because it’s cold or because we are attending parties or family get-togethers over the holiday season. That means there is more chance for viruses to pass from person to person or by touching contaminated surfaces.

Particular industries and sectors are at an increased risk from the effects of Norovirus and Influenza, including:

Schools/Colleges: children, especially the very young, are among the groups most vulnerable to Norovirus and Influenza. During winter, in particular, pupils will be indoors more and closer together so there is more chance of illnesses spreading. Schools, of course, want to ensure a safe environment for pupils and staff. But they also need to achieve high attendance records so that nobody misses vital lessons or falls behind. Our “Are You Ready?” campaign helps schools implement simple but effective processes to keep children and staff safe.

Care Homes: residents are, by definition, among the most vulnerable in society. Illnesses such as Norovirus and Influenza can be even more serious for the weak and frail than for those fortunate to have good health. Our “Are You Ready?” campaign offers advice and guidance to help homes protect their residents and give the best possible care.

Restaurants: it’s party season and restaurants and hospitality venues are doing a lot of business. Nobody wants their customers to get ill but any outbreak also poses the risk of bad publicity and lost business. Nor do restaurants want their staff to be off sick because it disrupts ongoing operations and places extra burdens on remaining employees during one of the busiest times of the year. Our “Are You Ready?” campaign helps restaurants and hospitality venues to minimise the risk of infections and make the most of their most important season.

Many people receive an annual flu jab to protect against this terrible illness. In addition to protecting the individual, immunisation also prevents the virus from spreading because it breaks the chain of infection, giving it fewer opportunities to pass on to new victims. However, there is no injection to protect against Norovirus.

But as with most illnesses, Norovirus and Influenza are usually spread through personal contact or by touching a contaminated surface. That’s why all infection prevention advice focuses on a combination of hand hygiene and surface disinfection. We’ll be going into more detail in later “Are You Ready?” blogs to help make sure You Are Ready.