A severe pandemic is defined as a worldwide epidemic in a vulnerable population. Communities, individuals, employers, schools, and other organizations can prepare and plan for how to help limit the spread of disease. Pandemic concerns have increased due to the more recent impacts of disease outbreaks such as the SARS coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in 2002, pandemic H1N1 in 2009, MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in 2012, and novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in 2019. Future disease outbreaks are likely, but difficult to predict.
Personal Protective Equipment
When cleaning in areas where contamination from an infectious disease has taken place or where a person suspected of having a disease has been, take the following precautions:
- Wear disposable gloves and a gown or apron for all cleaning tasks, including handling trash.
- Additional personal protective equipment (PPE), such as safety glasses, might be required based on the cleaning or disinfectant products being used and whether there is a risk of splash. Typically, there is no need to use masks or respirators.
Cleaning for Infectious Disease
- Depending on the disease, a virus may survive on environmental surfaces for a duration of time. Open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in the area. Wait 24 hours before you clean or disinfect. If 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible. If the sick person has not been present for more than 7 days, additional cleaning and disinfection is not necessary.
- Clean with soap and water or another detergent if the area is dirty. Then disinfect with an EPA-registered household disinfectant. These disinfectants should meet the EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19. Diluted household bleach solutions may also be used if appropriate for the surface. Allow surfaces to air-dry according to instructions on the product label.
- Clean surfaces and items that are more likely to have frequent hand contact. Frequently clean all commonly touched surfaces, such as work areas, countertops, armrests, latches, doorknobs, light switches, and bathroom surfaces.
Personal Hygiene and Safety
Be aware of the symptoms of the suspected disease you are cleaning for. The main source of airborne infectious particles will have been removed once a person suspected of having a disease leaves the building.
Those cleaning potentially contaminated facilities should practice frequent handwashing with soap and water (see “Pandemic Planning—Personal Hygiene” fact sheet) and follow these additional recommendations:
- Properly remove and discard gloves if they become soiled or damaged while cleaning.
- Discard gloves after you have finished cleaning. (Do not wash or reuse gloves worn during cleaning.)
- Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds immediately after removing gloves. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean hands.
“About SARS.” CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/sars/about/index.html
Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization in Healthcare Facilities, 2008. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/infectioncontrol/guidelines/disinfection/index.html
“Interim Domestic Guidance on the Use of Respirators to Prevent Transmission of SARS.” CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/sars/clinical/respirators.html
Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic. OSHA 3327-02N 2007. https://www.osha.gov/Publications/influenza_pandemic.html
Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Home, 04/03/2020. CDC.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility, 04/01/2020. CDC.
“Pandemic Planning—Infectious Disease Cleanup” fact sheet