At the time we’re writing this, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is continuing to spread around the world. Here in Chicago and around the country, millions of people are doing their part to help lower the infection rate and “bend the curve” on the coronavirus by practicing social distancing, washing their hands, wearing masks, and taking steps to keep their homes sanitary.
As we all come together to support healthcare workers and protect our families from this outbreak, it’s also important to look ahead — and think about all the ways that we can start preparing for future pandemics and outbreaks. This includes thinking about the next wave of emerging pathogens, and taking proactive steps that can help keep ourselves, our homes, and our communities safe.
Emerging Pathogens and Infectious Diseases: A Matter of Public Health
Coronavirus is an example of an emerging infectious disease, which the National Institute on Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) describes as “diseases that have newly appeared in a population or have existed but are rapidly increasing in incidence or geographic range.”
While COVID-19 is a recent example, there have been several emerging infectious diseases in recent years — including SARS, MERS, ebola, zika, swine flu, and avian flu. A few decades ago, HIV was considered an emerging pathogen, as was influenza.
As the Baylor College of Medicine explains, emerging infections can be caused when a previously undetected or unknown infectious agent appears, or when a known agent spreads to a new location or into a new population. Emerging infections also occur when a known agent that has declined significantly begins causing disease again, perhaps due to a new antimicrobial resistance to common antibiotics and drugs.
The emergence (or re-emergence) of infectious pathogens can come from many different factors, with many being the result of “ human behavior and practices,” as the Baylor College of Medicine explains. Conditions such as “population growth, migration from rural areas to cities, international air travel, poverty, wars, and destructive ecological changes due to economic development and land use” can make it easier for infectious agents to be introduced to a vulnerable population — and then spread rapidly from person-to-person.
As a result of these complex factors, emerging infectious diseases are becoming more and more common in humans. As Baylor College of Medicine explains:
“The World Health Organization warned in its 2007 report that infectious diseases are emerging at a rate that has not been seen before. Since the 1970s, about 40 infectious diseases have been discovered… With people traveling much more frequently and far greater distances than in the past, living in more densely populated areas, and coming into closer contact with wild animals, the potential for emerging infectious diseases to spread rapidly and cause global epidemics is a major concern.”
What this means is that we can’t simply rest easy once we’ve slowed the spread of COVID-19. Instead, it’s important to plan for the future and get into a routine that can help minimize the effects of the next major outbreak, whenever it comes.
What Can We Do to Stay Safe?
It’s not a question of if another major pandemic or outbreak will occur; it’s a question of when. Now, we’re not saying this to be alarmist or spread panic! Instead, we just want to emphasize the importance of thinking ahead, and taking steps that can help protect your community — and even stop the next spread in its tracks, before it gets a chance to take hold.
Here in the U.S. and around the world, researchers for government agencies and universities are always looking out for new infectious diseases, and finding ways to protect our most vulnerable communities.
While we can’t all be scientists and doctors on the front lines, we can still be proactive about taking care of ourselves and our homes, acknowledging that, as the CDC puts it, “we are living in an interconnected world where an outbreak of infectious disease is just a plane ride away.”
Fortunately, many of the practices that we have all adopted to help battle COVID-19 may help keep us all safe from new pathogens in the future. This includes simple, routine steps, such as:
Practicing Proper Hygiene
It’s important to regularly wash your hands. Use warm water and soap, and scrub over the entire surface of your hands — including between your fingers and up past your wrists for at least 20 seconds every time you wash up. The CDC has a guide to proper handwashing for virus control, available here.
Be sure to immediately throw away all used tissues in a sealed trash bin, to help minimize the spread of germs. If you cough or sneeze, be sure to catch it in your elbow, rather than in your hand. Avoid touching your face, and regularly wash your laundry, especially after going outside.
Regularly Disinfecting High-Touch Surfaces
One of the most important steps you can take at home or in the office is to regularly sanitize high-touch surfaces. As the CDC explains, this includes common touchpoints like:
- Hard-backed chairs
- Light switches
- Phones, tablets, and touch screens
- Remotes, keyboards, and other electronics
- Door handles and knobs
- Drawer pulls
- Faucets, sinks, and shower heads
- Washer/dryer doors
It’s important to properly sanitize each surface. This means properly using chemicals — such as bleach, alcohol solutions, or other certified disinfectants — to kill germs on surfaces. You can read more about proper disinfection techniques with our handy guide to “Cleaning Vs. Disinfecting,” available here. We also have a thorough guide to cleaning for virus control, here.
Using Certified Disinfectants
As new pathogens emerge, it’s important to look for expert guidance on what cleaning solutions you should use. Different organizations have different recommendations about what common chemicals can be used to fight infectious diseases, based on research and experimentation. For example, you can find a list of EPA-certified coronavirus cleaning agents right here.
Before using a new cleaning product, do some research. Always read the labels for safety instructions, including precautions you should take when applying the product, like wearing gloves or making sure you have good ventilation in the room.
We’re also here and ready to help be a resource, in any way we can! At Sweeping Dimensions, we’re always keeping on top of the best cleaning products and methods, so we can provide the best possible service to our clients and do our part to eliminate the possibility of germs and viruses in homes and businesses around Chicago. As the coronavirus outbreak continues, we have invested in powerful new cleaning agents, including non-bleach disinfectants, which can offer real results for anyone who doesn’t want bleach in their home.
Isolating Sick Individuals
Notice that your loved one seems a bit under the weather? Whether it’s a common cold or a new emerging infection, it’s important to keep sick individuals separate from the rest of the household and out of the community, so that there is less of a chance for them to spread germs to new carriers.
The CDC offers home care guidance for sick individuals, here. The CDC recommends that an ill person “should stay in a specific room and away from other people in their home,” as much as possible.
Provide the sick person with cleaning supplies, so that they can keep their surfaces sanitary while minimizing contact with others. If they must use a shared bathroom or kitchen, try to restrict their use to times when other people can stay clear of the space, and disinfect all surfaces as soon as possible after use.
During and after someone in your home gets sick, be sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize their room, as well as high-traffic common areas such as the living room, hallways, and bathroom. You can find our guide to cleaning after a loved one gets sick, right here.
Looking for a Cleaning Partner Who’s Got Your Back?
During these uncertain times, we’re all reminded of the importance of a clean home. We’re here to help make things easier and give you back peace of mind — no matter what.
If you’re looking for help keeping your home or office sanitary and ready for whatever the future may bring, Sweeping Dimensions is ready to help.
Our teams of professionally trained and uniformed cleaning experts have the care, knowledge, and attention to detail it takes to keep the most important people in your life safe, comfortable, and healthy.
Whether you’re looking for special one-time deep cleaning for your home or office; service for your short-term rental; or a regular housekeeping routine to keep your home looking and feeling its best, we are here to help. Our teams can bring all of the cleaning supplies necessary to sanitize your home or office, on a flexible schedule that works for you.
Curious about our approach? Want to talk more about our disinfectants, and the investments we’re making to help our clients keep their most important spaces free from coronavirus and emerging pathogens? We’d be happy to keep the discussion going! Don’t hesitate to follow us on social media for updates, or reach out today for your free service estimate.