It’s the second of our series of blogs taking a closer look at our infection control service. This time around, we’re shining a spotlight on Norovirus. It’s a timely reminder of this pathogen, as we’re just coming into the season when it can become prevalent. We’ll be looking at what the virus can do – and how we can help eradicate the risks of it spreading.
The winter vomiting bug is a nasty name for a nasty virus
Norovirus is often known as the ‘winter vomiting bug’. This is because it usually spreads during the winter months, but it can occur throughout the year. It’s the most common gastrointestinal infection in the UK, affecting between 600,000 and a million people a year. The main symptoms of norovirus are nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting. An infected person may also have a high temperature of 38C or above, a headache, and aching arms and legs (often symptoms for other viruses too).
The problem with Norovirus is that it can spread very easily, from close contact with someone infected. It can survive on surfaces or objects for many days, so can pass on through touch (especially if someone touches their mouth after touching an infected surface). It can also be spread by eating food that's been prepared or handled by someone with norovirus. This means that outbreaks are most likely when people are confined in close proximity to each other, typically in schools, hospitals, cruise ships or military bases.
The symptoms appear one to two days after becoming infected and typically last for up to two or three days. As with many viruses, there is no specific treatment apart from letting the illness run its course. Most people don’t usually need medical attention, unless symptoms don’t improve or more serious problems develop. In particular, there is the risk of dehydration among the elderly or people with other illnesses.
Infection control is for life, not just for winter
General health and safety advice about cleaning and infection control is available on the UK’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website. The HSE doesn’t publish guidance for businesses and landlords on the subject of Norovirus. However, there is very specific advice from the NHS. Online advice recommends anyone who has had symptoms associated with Norovirus stay off work or school for 2 days after the symptoms have stopped, as that’s when they're most infectious. In hospitals, patients are usually isolated for up to three days after symptoms have cleared. The NHS also has a leaflet on dealing with diarrhoea and/or vomiting outbreaks in such settings.
There are some clear steps that any employer can take to limit the risks associated with Norovirus spreading:
Encourage workers to practice good hand hygiene, by washing with hot water and soap (note that alcohol hand gels do not kill Norovirus).
Guarantee availability of washrooms and handwashing supplies.
Perform routine workplace housekeeping.
Ensure that surfaces where Norovirus may linger are cleaned and disinfected.
Promote a general culture of safety, including not reporting to work if sick, to demonstrate that you care about worker health and safety protection in the workplace.
Eliminating Norovirus through cleaning and infection control protocols
Cleaning and disinfecting is obviously where React can shine. Our Infection Control Service focuses specifically on ensuring that all surfaces are cleaned and disinfected. We use appropriately diluted products which are effective but safe, and follow strict infection control protocols to ensure complete disinfection. We follow our own advice too, and ensure that all our workers are fit and well when they attend each and every cleaning assignment.
There are some sectors where it’s particularly important to ensure that Norovirus doesn’t spread. In healthcare settings, we focus our infection control efforts on surgical areas such as operating theatres and post-operative care facilities. Care homes are another setting where it’s vital to protect residents from the risk of contracting Norovirus. And in any building, our janitorial and deep cleaning services also provide regular cleaning of common areas such as corridors and washrooms too. We have a crystal-clear approach to limiting the spread of Norovirus: we aim to eliminate the virus from surfaces. We just leave it up to our clients, their employees and their service users to do the hand-washing.
To find out more about our Infection Control Service and how we can reduce your Norovirus risks, contact one of the team today.
Telephone: 01283 550 503
Post by Shaun D. Doak
Shaun is the Managing Director of React Specialist Cleaning. He is deeply committed to making sure that every one of our company’s clients receives the highest possible level of service. An expert in HVAC and commercial and industrial cleaning methodologies, Shaun has extensive experience in the facilities management and renewable services sectors.