10 Listens: Disinfecting school buses for flu

Bus cleaning isn't just a one-time thing.

We know when schools close for illness in East Tennessee, classrooms are being disinfected. But viewers asked us if school buses are also being cleaned, and if that cleaning even makes a difference.

The short answers?

Yes and yes.

Several school districts, including Knox, Loudon and Campbell County Schools, all contract out their buses to independent companies.

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They said it's up to them to clean.

Knox County Schools delivered cleaning supplies to their bus contractors this week. Namely, large containers of strong "germicidal disposable wipes."

Those companies have been working hard to get all the germs off the bus before Knox County Schools students get back on Wednesday.

Matt Finamore with Gentry School Bus Lines spent his day Tuesday cleaning school buses.

"We get all the seats, bottoms, sides, tops, both sides," he said.

Finamore said kids probably don't realize how many germs ride the bus with them.

The deep cleans will hopefully get rid of more than just the flu virus, which the Knox County Health Department said can live on a hard surface for 24 hours.

"That cleaning helps like norovirus, for instance, which we see a lot of," said Dr. Martha Buchanan, Director of the Knox County Health Department. "It can last several days on a hard surface, so that environmental cleaning is a recommendation for infection control."

It's just as important for students, teachers and parents to keep germ-free in every way they can on and off the bus.

"If folks can really start to wash their hands and be more more diligent about that it's really going to help as well," said Buchanan.

Bus cleaning isn't just a one-time thing. When flu season ends, these buses will not be neglected.

"We usually try to do them, like the deep, deep cleans, at least every Friday," Finamore said. "Today, I think I've done three or four larger buses."

And he'll keep disinfecting, preparing for Wednesday's routes.

"It's no big deal," said Finamore. "I wouldn't want my kids to be sick, so that's why I'll do it."

Buchanan said even with Knox County Schools resuming, stay home if you're sick.

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You can go back to school or work when your fever is gone for 24 hours without the help of medicine.