‘Tis the season for extra days off work, more time to spend with family and friends, and endless parties and get-togethers to celebrate the holidays. Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of year indeed.
But while feasting on delectable dishes, decking the halls, and doing fun activities may be part of your plans, we’re sure getting sick isn’t. Nothing can spoil your holiday cheer quite like contracting pneumonia, norovirus, or campylobacter from holiday germs.
Germs and bacteria will also be passed around along with plates full of yummy food, heartfelt gifts, and other things. Once these pathogens enter your body via direct contact, ingestion or consumption get ready to experience sore throats, dehydration, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and other icky symptoms.
Understanding the common ways bacteria and infections spread this time of year can help keep you from being one of the thousands of unlucky people who get sick.
Read below to learn how disease-causing pathogens are transmitted during the holidays.
Plenty of food is served for Fall and Winter holidays. Regardless of the type of holiday you celebrate, there’s typically a dish or feast being prepared for hungry guests. Cookies, pies, turkeys, ham, casseroles and more will be prepared and served at company potlucks, family dinners, happy hours, cooking and baking contests, and many other places.
Not to ruin your appetite ahead of time, but if these foods aren’t properly stored, cooked, or handled, they can make you seriously sick. In fact, contaminated food is one of the top ways that infections and bacteria spread during the holiday season.
A single dish or food item can sicken dozens of people at once, causing a mini outbreak.
Food contamination doesn’t just happen in dirty facilities or homes, either. It can happen in the cleanest, most regulated restaurants, kitchens, and food processing plants.
Only one small mistake or mishap needs to happen for salmonella, listeria or E. coli to invade your food. Something as simple as leaving food out for too long, not putting food back in the refrigerator, or not cooking meat and fish to the proper temperature can allow bacteria to grow and spread.
Buying food that is already contaminated is another way you can get sick, too. If a manufacturer has distributed an item that is contaminated but it hasn’t been pulled from store shelves, you could be at risk. If you then prepare this item for other people, you’re putting them at risk as well.
People with existing infections won’t want to miss out on the holiday fun. Even though their physician or care provider has probably advised them to stay home, they’ll bring their runny noses, dry coughs, and fevers to parties and gatherings anyway, spreading their germs to other healthy people.
The most common ways that sick people infect others are by normal behaviors or actions that aren’t harmless when they’re not carrying highly contagious pathogens. Something as simple as coughing or sneezing blasts germs into the air, where they travel up to 19 feet to infect people nearby. Shaking hands or coming into direct contact with other people also expedites the spread of infections and bacteria from sick people to others, especially if they don’t practice handwashing.
Touching surfaces like door handles, water dispensers, elevator buttons, or shared tools like tongs at a potluck help spread germs from infected people to healthy people. Contaminated clothing and personal items can also transmit germs to employees, family members, or guests. Read our blog post about the top 5 cold weather diseases to find out common infections that typically spread this time of year, which include pneumonia and bronchiolitis.
Our hands act as the first line of defense to keep us from getting sick. But if you aren’t regularly washing your hands with antibacterial soap and using hand sanitizer to kill germs left behind, you’re sure to catch an infection.
Since many people don’t follow proper hand hygiene, it’s no wonder that a whopping 80% of bacteria and viruses spread by dirty hands. Some people have admitted to not washing their hands after using the restroom, using their hands to cover sneezes, wiping their noses, and more gross habits. In addition to this, others confessed to not washing their hands before or after they eat or cook.
The National Institute for Health even published a study suggesting that of the approximately two million infections that occur in hospitals, 70% could be prevented by following proper systems that include focusing on thorough hand washing. Contaminated hands can spread a range of infections including MRSA and the common cold.
Keep this in mind as you’re shaking hands at parties and events.
Killing Holiday Germs
Killing holiday germs and bacteria isn’t complicated. You can easily eliminate bacteria and germs from surfaces and skin with the tips listed below.
Sanitize and Disinfect Surfaces Regularly
Creating a schedule to wipe tables, equipment, counters, and other shared, high-touch surfaces with sanitizing and disinfectant wipes is key to killing harmful germs in your facility. When selecting wipes, always use an EPA registered or FDA approved sanitizer or disinfectant formula. They are tested rigorously and have been proven to kill certain strains of bacteria and viruses like influenza, listeria, E.Coli, rhinovirus, pneumonia, and many other germs that you don’t want crashing your holiday plans. Read our Q&A Guide to Selecting The Right Disinfectant Wipe to learn other things you should consider before choosing a wipe for your facility.
Encourage Hand Washing And The Use of Hand Sanitizers
Encourage and remind anyone at your facility to practice handwashing. Educate your team and visitors on the importance of washing their hands after going to the bathroom, eating or handling food, shaking hands with someone, touching shared public surfaces, and sneezing or coughing by posting signs throughout your facility. In addition, mount hand sanitizer dispensers in high traffic areas for easy access.
Deep Clean After A Sickness Has Been Realized or Reported
When someone has been reported sick, the best way to ensure germs don’t spread to others and are completely eradicated is by deep cleaning your facility. Outbreaks that require deep cleaning include norovirus, foodborne illnesses like E. coli, listeria, and salmonella. Skin and viral infections like MRSA, pneumonia, and influenza also require deep cleaning to be eradicated. Be proactive by creating a deep cleaning checklist and assign certain tasks to the appropriate personnel or staff member. You can also hire a cleaning agency for added effectiveness.
Celebrate The Holidays Without The Holiday Germs
The winter holidays are a time of celebration and spending time with people you love and care about. But with all the joy going around, it’s also very easy for germs and infections to spread. Being sick during the holidays isn’t fun for anyone, but you’re now equipped to protect yourself and others from infections and sickness.