The outbreak of the ‘winter vomiting bug’ norovirus has previously struck down more than 1million people in the UK, and caused hospitals and schools to close, as well as great misery for those who had to endure the symptoms of this highly contagious virus. Unfortunately norovirus hasn’t gone anywhere, though that particular outbreak was memorable for its sheer scale, and it did draw attention to how important it is to control such an outbreak and the most effective ways in which to do so.
Known as a winter vomiting bug only because it’s more common during colder seasons, when people stay indoors more and group together, norovirus is once again making the rounds with outbreaks of varying scales currently being reported around the UK. So now is the time to take action in your care home to keep your residents safe and well, by practicing proper infection control methods and encouraging healthy habits for both residents and staff alike.
What is norovirus?
As we’ve already mentioned, the nickname given to norovirus is a misnomer as it’s possible to catch it during the summer months too, although much less likely. Norovirus is spread through even very tiny particles of infected vomit or faeces, which could be inhaled, picked up by touching a contaminated surface, or eating contaminated food.
As well as projectile vomiting, norovirus also causes watery diarrhoea, but fever, headaches, stomach cramps and aches are also symptoms that can appear. Its symptoms are severely unpleasant in the short term and will manifest one to two days after contracting the virus, but they only last for two or three days once they have appeared.
What sets norovirus apart from other stomach bugs is that it is extremely contagious, and those suffering are encouraged not to visit their GP to further prevent the virus spreading, and also because there is no cure – norovirus is a virus, not a bacteria, and therefore antibiotics won’t be effective. Instead, if medical advice is really needed, it should be sought by calling their GP or NHS 111.
Preventing the spread of norovirus
Hospitals, schools, and indeed care homes are unfortunately common sources of outbreaks such as norovirus as they are semi-closed environments where people are in close contact with one another for long periods of time. Therefore, special efforts must be made to prevent an outbreak from occurring in the first instance. The Healthcare Infection Society has specific guidelines for managing norovirus in healthcare settings, but here are our most important tips:
- During the winter months when norovirus risks are at their highest, it’s even more important that care home staff and residents regularly and thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water to remove any norovirus particles from their skin. Hand washing is the single most important step that you can take in care home infection control. After washing hands, always use a personal bottle of hand sanitizer like, TECcare Protect Hand Sanitizing Foamer
- Those that have contracted norovirus should be isolated from those without the virus, whether in separate rooms or even areas of the care home, and use different facilities. This should continue for up to 48 hours after symptoms have passed.
- Care home staff should wear PPE including disposable gloves, apron and face mask when tending to residents with the virus.
- All surfaces that could be possibly contaminated should be disinfected – we recommend following the TECcare environment protocol proven to kill the virus.
- Fabrics that could be contaminated should be washed immediately on a hot wash in conjunction with TECcare to kill the virus, including towels, bedding, clothing, and upholstery.
- Infected vomit or faces in the toilet should be flushed away with the lid closed and then the entire surrounding area cleaned and disinfected.
- Fresh produce should be washed and thoroughly cooked before consumption.
- Visitors to your care home should be limited only to those that are essential.
- At Delivered Health Solutions our comprehensive Infection Control products range will help you to control and prevent an outbreak of norovirus, and keep your residents and your staff safe. Norovirus is a particularly difficult virus to control, but with the right preparation and plans in place, it’s possible to avoid being part of the statistics.