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Hold the flu at bay by keeping surfaces clean

Janet Hackert, regional nutrition and health education specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension


Flu season is upon us again, and we have all heard about the importance of washing hands, staying away from those who are sick, and covering a cough or sneeze and staying away from others when you are sick. Another important tip to remember during flu season is to keep surfaces clean. Influenza is caused by a virus — a living organism that can be killed. Knowing more about this can help us get rid of these germs before they make us sick.


When someone who has the flu coughs or sneezes on an object or on their hands and then touches an object, the germs can survive there for two to eight hours. Germs can be found on surfaces like door knobs, table/desk tops, light switches, phones, pencils/pens, toys, remote controls, hand-held games — basically any surface a person commonly touches.


The good news is that killing the flu virus is pretty easy. Influenza virus is destroyed by heat (167 to 212 degrees F), chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, detergents, soap, iodine-based antiseptics and alcohol-based cleaners. Heat works for items that can withstand it, like dishes and utensils.


Another option is to clean and disinfect with a commercial product — the detergent will clean the surface and its disinfectant will kill the germs. Follow package directions for proper use. You can also clean with bleach and water — use a tablespoon of bleach per quart of water. Apply bleach water, let stand for three to five minutes, then rinse with clean water.


If someone has been ill, wash clothing, towels and bedding. Be sure to wash your hands after handling items of someone who has the flu. For electronic items that are touched often, like phones and computer keyboards, use a sanitizing wipe to kill germs.


Follow these simple cleaning tips and stay clear of the flu this season!



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Last Updated 01/15/2010