Communicable diseases

Clean Talk with Rose
By Rose Galera, CEH
Hawaii Hospitality Magazine, May/June 2008

Dear Rose,
Communicable diseases are on my training list. Got any information for an executive housekeeper struggling to put together a needed housekeeping training program?

Aloha Joannie,
Communicable diseases are a fact of life that we in housekeeping must focus on. Illnesses spread because of close contact through touching, tasting and/or breathing. The spread of communicable diseases may be reduced by way of preventative and management measures. Communication, cooperation and training must be established among frontline and management personnel. Programs must include clean health policies, cleaning processes and plans for proper training about communicable diseases and illnesses.

Communicable diseases in the workplace pose three classes of risks: workers’ compensation liability, third-party liability and productivity losses.

Hotels use antimicrobials/disinfectants in routine cleaning of guest rooms and on-premise laundering to ensure clean and sanitary bed and bath linens. The same applies to health clubs and spas. Disinfectants are used in public spaces to reduce or prevent the spread of infections.

Other routes of transfer of disease-causing microorganisms include sinks, faucet handles, bathrooms, counters, tables, phones, television remotes and desktops. Regular hand washing, the use of disinfectants and sanitizers on surfaces and objects and general cleanliness are important practices.

Hotels are also often equipped with indoor and/or outdoor swimming pools and whirlpools. These pools create an additional need for antimicrobials. Microbial growth, while encouraged by sunlight, can still flourish in the indoor environment. The use of antimicrobials is therefore necessary in the treatment of swimming pool and spa waters; otherwise, biological contamination would result, indicated by the water’s discoloration and bad odor. Antimicrobials lower the risk of disease and increase aesthetics for the guests’ recreational enjoyment.

Hotels also use antimicrobials in cooling tower treatments to prevent the spread of disease through ventilation.

Communicable diseases are caused by germs and tiny bugs. The germs and bugs are categorized as: viruses (e.g., “colds/7 chicken pox, hepatitis), bacteria (e.g., “strep,” tuberculosis), fungi (e.g., ringworm, thrush) and parasites (e.g., scabies, head lice).

Frequent hand washing while at work is most often discussed in connection with food and cleaning. But it is important to wash hands after using the bathroom, handling money, coughing, sneezing, etc. Evidence indicates that many communicable diseases, such as hepatitis, and gastrointestinal problems including diarrhea and upper respiratory diseases, are spread through contact with contaminated surfaces and inanimate

Health screenings and immunizations of employees are important to prevent the spread of diseases. You can’t tell by looking at people whether they carry a communicable disease. To prevent the spread of diseases, we must take the same infection control precautions at all times with all people. Employees should follow daily safety/infection-control practices to prevent the spread of disease: 1) wash hands at proper times and with the proper technique, 2) use latex or vinyl gloves for contact with blood, 3) clean and disinfect objects and surfaces regularly, 4) prepare and handle food in a sanitary manner, 5) dispose of waste properly and 6) provide fresh air and ventilation.

The best defense against communicable diseases is a healthy body. Intact skin is an excellent barrier to germs. A strong immune system fights off most germs. When we take care of our bodies with proper nutrition, exercise and rest, our bodies can usually take care of us.

Employees should have periodic health screenings. This helps identify health needs and provides treatment to prevent further health problems. The health screening item most relevant to communicable disease are immunizations (vaccines) to protect against serious illnesses, such as polio, measles, diphtheria, mumps, tetanus, rubella (German measles), pertussis (whooping cough), hepatitis B, haemophilus influenza B and varicella (chicken pox). Hotel employees should consult their health care provider about getting immunized. Since new immunizations can become available at any time, consulting with local public health authorities to leam the most current information is recommended.

Contacting your company’s health care provider for educational information and materials is an excellent avenue for a training program. The health care provider may also support you by providing a speaker for your training programs.

It is important to include in your housekeeping cleaning processes critical information and cleaning steps in dealing with any communicable disease situation or incident that mav arise.

Good luck in putting together your training on managing communicable diseases.

Posted in Clean Talk Columns.

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