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posted 26/11/2013 - 11:33
With winter making its presence felt The Independent is already reporting ward closures in Southampton and Leicester hospitals owing to the Norovirus, so now is a good time to remind ourselves of the importance of infection control for when the inevitable outbreaks occur.
Norovirus, the winter vomiting bug, is a highly contageous infection that spreads fast. Up to 5% of the population develops it every year. It is hard to eradicate when people are in close contact indoors and can compromise employees’ health and productivity for weeks. Prevention and fast reaction in the event of an outbreak is essential to minimise risk.
The principle symptoms are vomiting and diarrhoea but these are often accompanied by abdominal pain, headache, fever and aching muscles. All vomit and faeces must be treated as highly contagious. Symptoms will become apparent within 1-2 days of infection. Onset is likely to be sudden and the period of illness a couple of days or less, but individuals remain infectious for up to two days after the symptoms have disappeared so it is vital to stress the importance of not returning to work too quickly to minimise ongoing infection.
It is important to be ready so ensure that cleaning staff have all the necessary equipment to clean and disinfect affected areas. Equally, ensure that employees know who to call if an incident occurs. In the event of a member of staff vomiting it should be cleared up at once and the individual sent home to recover. Employees should be firmly advised not to return to work until 48 hours after the symptoms last appeared.
Education is paramount, with hygiene notices communicating the importance of thorough hand washing and drying to employees. Cleaning staff should be given clear cleaning protocols and appropriate training. Ideally wash rooms will have touch free technology and the latest driers which are considerably more hygienic.
Preventing infection spreading
All vomit and faecal matter should be treated as infectious so after an incident cleaning up as quickly as possible with hot water and detergent is critical. The following procedures are advised:
Cleaning staff should use disposable rubber gloves and aprons, removing the material carefully and disposing of it in the toilet. When the material has been removed the area should be washed and disinfected – Temco deep clean using Oxivir spray a powerful detergent disinfectant with excellent bactericidal, virucidal and fungicidal properties and Suma Back 10, a highly concentrated detergent surface sanitizer for one-step cleaning and disinfection. Any cloths used should be disposed of as waste.
Temco also increases the frequency of cleaning regular contact areas such as door push plates and cubicle handles and can also organise an overnight or weekend deep clean to try and eradicate the virus as they did in a school last year.
It all makes sense and it is best to be prepared. Of course there are worse things than the Norovirus, too. All has been quiet on the H1N1 front for a while but it will arise again, so the better our infection control is now, the better prepared we shall be.