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Pathogen profile – Norovirus

Sharp increase in Norovirus cases in England

A significant increase in Norovirus, the most common infectious cause of vomiting and diarrhoea, has been reported by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).  Laboratory-confirmed cases are being reported at 66% higher than average for this time of the year.

Dr. Lesley Larkin, Surveillance Lead, Gastrointestinal Infections and Food Safety (One Health) Division at UKHSA, said: “Norovirus levels are currently the highest we have seen at this time of year in over a decade. Most reported cases are in the over 65s and we’re also seeing a rise in reported outbreaks, particularly in care home settings.”

Today’s health and social care settings have a responsibility to ensure that an effective infection control strategy is in place, ready to deal with outbreaks that threaten to disrupt services and place additional and unnecessary strain on the National Health Service.

Outbreaks of Norovirus can severely disrupt the delivery of services to patients, varying from the closure or restriction of hospital wards to delayed admissions into care home facilities, which subsequently delays the transfer of patients from acute hospitals or community care.

Organisations should have systematic business continuity plans for use in outbreak situations, which detail precisely what actions need to be taken to control the spread of outbreaks.

Virus characteristics

Norovirus also called the ‘winter vomiting bug’; is a virus that causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. Although it is most common during the winter months, you can catch Norovirus at any time of year.

While most people who catch Norovirus will recover in 2-3 days, for young children, the elderly, or those with existing health problems, it can be more serious. In some cases, a Norovirus infection can lead to dehydration which results in hospitalisation.

Norovirus is highly infectious and can be caught from close contact with an infected person, handling food prepared by an infected person, or by touching surfaces or objects which are infected, and then touching your face.

Alcohol hand sanitisers are ineffective against Norovirus, therefore it is vitally important that hands are washed frequently with soap and warm water, making sure that no areas of the hands are missed.

Managing an outbreak

It is vital that your team understand what is expected of them if they are affected by the virus, and when they should return to work. The NHS advises that if your employees contract Norovirus, they should stay at home and should not come to work until they have been free of symptoms for two days.

A policy for the segregation and protection of patients or residents must also be clear. Before an outbreak occurs, organisations need to be clear about what escalation system will be used at the onset and throughout the course of the outbreak. A policy on the movement of patients and staff needs to be fully understood by the workforce.

It is vitally important that the correct hygiene protocols are used to prevent the spread of the virus on surfaces and equipment. This might include wearing additional personal protective equipment when cleaning an infected person’s room, or adding additional cleaning such as room fogging when a patient or resident leaves. Selecting an effective disinfectant is essential, as the average antibacterial cleaner is unlikely to have the required high-level efficacy against viruses.

An ineffective disinfectant will not help to control the spread of an outbreak. Disinfectants that are effective should have been tested against Norovirus to the European Standard EN 14476. This is usually identified on the product back label, or in the technical information pack from the manufacturer and it is advisable to check that your current disinfectant or sanitiser has this test data, to ensure your cleaning protocols will be effective.

Communication with staff, residents, and their visitors is extremely important. Compliance with cleaning protocols relies upon the understanding of the entire team, so communicating the correct practices and products to your staff will help to improve compliance. Residents or patients should also understand what action is being taken for their protection, and visitors should be aware of how they can assist by staying at home if they are unwell and not returning until it is safe to do so, and by increasing hand washing during visits.

Exceptional antimicrobial efficacy

Byotrol’s 4in1 Multi-Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner and Byotrol’s Fogging Solution have both been rigorously tested to European Standard EN 14476 against Norovirus, to confirm they are effective for the purpose of preventing and controlling the spread of Norovirus in a variety of environments.

The Byotrol 4in1 Multi-Purpose Disinfectant Cleaner is available in both a larger concentrate format and a ready-for-use trigger spray, which is ideal for use on frequently-touched areas such as door handles, telephones, remote controls and lift buttons.

Byotrol’s Fogging Solution can be dispersed via electrostatic sprayers and ULV foggers in addition to your normal cleaning routine, to add additional peace of mind.

For more information on Byotrol products and how they can help to protect your organisation, please click here or contact us.

Use biocides safely. Always read the label and product information before use.