06:22am Thursday 20 February 2020

New norovirus season – new hygiene advice


hand hygiene ColourboxNorovirus is highly contagious and measures to prevent spread of infection should begin early where infection is suspected. The updated hygiene advice for norovirus infection is to use soap and running water when washing hands.

Previously, alcohol-based hand disinfection was advised but new research has shown that it is not very effective against norovirus. Hands should be washed with soap and running water to physically remove the virus.

Most common cause of gastrointestinal illness

Norovirus is responsible for at least 50 per cent of all outbreaks of gastrointestinal infection worldwide. In Norway, norovirus outbreaks usually occur in winter.

People of all ages can become infected but the disease is usually mild and otherwise healthy people feel better after 1-3 days.

It takes 12-48 hours from being infected to become sick. Symptoms include acute onset of nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and watery diarrhoea. In addition, many experience influenza-like symptoms such as fever, muscle and joint aches and headache.

An infected person is most contagious while experiencing vomiting and diarrhoea, but can also be infectious when this has ceased. People can return to work or school when they feel better, but as they may still be infectious even after the symptoms have stopped, they should be extra vigilant about good hand hygiene in the first few days after recovery.

People who handle food should not return to work until 48 hours after vomiting and diarrhoea episodes have stopped. Children should be kept home from childcare until 48 hours after vomiting and diarrhoea have ceased.

General preventive hygiene

The best preventive measures against norovirus infection are good hand and kitchen hygiene. In health institutions, it is important to isolate those who are sick. Good hand hygiene means frequent hand washing with soap and running water.

Cover and wipe any contaminated surfaces with paper towels. Use a bleach-based household cleaner, following the recommended concentration on the bottle (1 dl bleach to 5 litres of water). If the toilet, door handles, sink and other touch points are contaminated, wipe them over with the same solution.

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