Why should we focus on surfaces?

Contrary to many people’s beliefs, the vast majority of bacterial and viral infections are caused by contact with contaminated surfaces. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, small droplets containing the virus spread. When these drops spread in the air, they can be inhaled by others or settle on the nose, mouth and eyes and thus infection. However, most drops fall to the ground or on surfaces within a few meters.

Thus, most infections are caused by contact with contaminated surfaces. An infected person can transmit viruses to surfaces, such as door handles or table edges, by coughing, sneezing or touching the surface with their hands. The next person touching the surface can then transmit the virus to their own mouth, nose or eyes.

Viruses can live on surfaces for several days

When the virus is transmitted to a surface, it can survive on the surface for up to several days. Recent studies show, for example, that SARS-CoV-19 (Covid-19) can live on surfaces for up to 5 days (1). Therefore, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces is essential to minimize the spread of infection and increase hygiene.

Identify the most dangerous surfaces

Bacteria and viruses are a part of our daily lives and some of them contribute to our health while others can be harmful. These microorganisms can be found on all surfaces – on our bodies, on the ground, in the air and in water. Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces can therefore seem like a large and resource-intensive task. Fortunately, however, it is not necessary to clean all surfaces to minimize the spread of infection.

By identifying the most dangerous surfaces when one reaches far. Here you should consider which surfaces should in fact be identified as large spreaders of infection. Many focus on personal belongings, such as phones, keyboards or glasses. These devices can also store many microorganisms, but the fact is that we do not share our phone with others, for example. There is therefore no great danger that the phone may infect others.

To minimize the spread of infection in your organization, you will instead benefit more by focusing on surfaces that are touched often and by many different people. This can be the coffee machine, the toilet, table edges and door handles. As these surfaces are affected by many different people, they also contribute to the rapid spread of bacteria and viruses.

The door handle is a large spreader of infection

The door handle is one of the surfaces that is touched most often and by most. It is thus also one of the largest spreaders of infection in your organization. Studies show, for example, that a contaminated handle can transmit viruses to the next 14 people who use the handle (2). It is not certain that all of these 14 people will get the virus transmitted to the mouth, nose or eyes, but they will all help spread it to the rest of the office when they move around afterwards. In fact, just one contaminated handle can transmit viruses to 40-60% of staff in just 4 hours (3).

You can thus save a lot of time and resources by first identifying the large spreaders of the infection and then attacking them effectively and persistently.

Identify dangerous
surfaces

For example, door handles, toilets, etc. And decide how to clean them

Implement a cleaning plan

and use the right tools to disinfect

Maintenance and audits

Make sure your efforts are sustained and revise on an ongoing basis, so hygiene

(1) Neeltje van Doremalen et al.(2020 ). Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. The New England Journal of Medicine

(2) Barker, J., Vipond, I., & Bloomfield, S. (2004). Effects of cleaning and disinfection in reducing the spread of Norovirus contamination via environmental surfaces. Journal of Hospital Infection 58, 42–49.

(3) Gerba, C. (2014). How quickly viruses can contaminate buildings — from just a single doorknob. American Society for Microbiology.