What Is Norovirus & How To Prevent It

June 6, 2023by Jamie Browning0

Norovirus, also called the “winter vomiting bug”, is a common and highly contagious viral infection that causes unpleasant symptoms like severe diarrhoea and vomiting.

You should be aware of the signs of Norovirus and know how to protect yourself and others against the risk of infection. Always act quickly if you suspect an outbreak and arrange a specialist Norovirus infection control service to stop the bacteria from spreading.

Ultima Environmental is a disease control and decontamination service provider with over 20 years of experience. You can have confidence knowing that our biohazard cleaners have the expertise to carry out Norovirus infection control safely, effectively, and discretely.

Understanding Norovirus

What is Norovirus?

Norovirus is a common stomach bug that causes viral gastroenteritis, which is the inflammation of the stomach and intestines. This often leads to the sudden onset of symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, and stomach cramps.

People of all ages can get infected and sick with Norovirus anytime, although it’s more common in winter. Norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis, causing an estimated 685 million cases each year.

What are the symptoms of Norovirus?

The symptoms of Norovirus can appear quickly after exposure and may last for up to three days. Common symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramps (common)
  • Vomiting (common)
  • Diarrhoea (common)
  • Tiredness (common)
  • Fever or chills (less common)
  • Muscle aches (less common)
  • Headache (less common)

What is the incubation period for the Norovirus?

The time between catching Norovirus and developing symptoms is typically 12-48 hours.

What are the high-risk groups and settings?

Anyone can catch Norovirus, but some groups are at higher risk of contracting the virus and developing health complications such as severe dehydration. These groups include:

  1. Young children: Children under the age of 5 are at higher risk of experiencing severe Norovirus symptoms because their immune systems are not fully developed, making it more difficult for them to fight off the virus.
  2. Older adults: Adults over the age of 65 are also at higher risk of experiencing severe symptoms because their immune systems may be weaker due to age-related conditions.
  3. People with weakened immune systems: Individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing chemotherapy, are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms after contracting Norovirus.
Young man having nausea at home. Feeling sick

In general, any setting where people are in close proximity and share facilities and surfaces can be a high-risk setting for Norovirus outbreaks. This includes healthcare settings, schools, and cruise ships.

Transmission and Spread of Norovirus

What is Norovirus caused by?

The Norovirus infection is commonly spread by:

  • Contaminated surfaces: Touching surfaces that are contaminated with the virus (such as doorknobs or countertops) then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Food: Norovirus can contaminate food at any point during the food preparation process, from handling to cooking to serving. Eating food that’s been prepared or handled by someone with Norovirus can easily spread the virus.
  • Person-to-person contact: Norovirus can spread quickly through person-to-person contact, particularly in crowded environments. People can contract the virus by being in close proximity to an infected person, such as caring for someone who is sick or sharing personal items.

How long is Norovirus contagious?

Norovirus is most infectious from the start of symptoms until 48 hours after all symptoms have stopped, according to the NHS website. However, you may also be infectious for a short time before and after this.

Why does Norovirus spread so quickly?

Norovirus is highly contagious and spreads quickly via multiple transmission routes, including contaminated surfaces, food, water, and person-to-person contact. The virus is also extremely resilient and can survive on surfaces for several days.

This makes it difficult to control outbreaks, particularly in settings where people share facilities and surfaces such as schools and care homes.

Button with virus around the elevator or lift.

Suggested reading: Check out our blog on on how long Norovirus lives on surfaces for more in-depth information on this.

Norovirus Prevention and Control Measures

How to prevent Norovirus from spreading?

Following good hygiene practices is the best way to avoid getting or spreading Norovirus and other viral gastroenteritis infections.

You should:

  • Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Always wash hands thoroughly after using the restroom, handling food, or caring for someone who is sick.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available.
  • What precautions should I take when handling and preparing food?
  • Safe food handling practices can help prevent the spread of Norovirus and reduce the risk of contamination.

Here are some practices to keep in mind:

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before and after handling food.
  • Cook food to the appropriate temperature to kill any potential contaminants.
  • Keep raw meat and seafood separate from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked foods, and wash them thoroughly with warm, soapy water after use.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables before eating to remove any potential contaminants.

How can I keep my environment safe and hygienic?

Effective cleaning and disinfection protocols are essential to prevent the spread of Norovirus and reduce the risk of contamination. Make sure that you disinfect surfaces regularly using the appropriate cleaning products.

What are the best cleaning products that kill Norovirus?

Quality disinfectants such as Byotrol 4-in-1 multi-purpose spray are designed to kill 99.9% of germs and viruses, including Norovirus.

You should always follow the instructions on the label carefully and wear the appropriate personal protective equipment when handling cleaning chemicals.

A selection of Byotrol products

Does steam cleaning kill Norovirus?

Yes, steam cleaning can be an effective method for killing Norovirus on hard surfaces when used at the proper temperature for a sufficient amount of time.

While steam cleaning can be a useful tool for preventing the spread of Norovirus on surfaces, it should be used in conjunction with other disinfection methods to ensure that surfaces are properly sanitised.

How to prevent getting Norovirus after exposure?

If you have been exposed to Norovirus, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting infected and avoid spreading the virus to others:

  • Follow good hygiene practices
  • Drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated
  • Stay at home until you have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours
  • Avoid sharing personal items if you or someone you live with has symptoms
  • Seek medical attention if your symptoms are severe

It is important to note that there is no specific treatment for Norovirus, and antibiotics are not effective against the virus. Prevention is key to avoiding Norovirus, and taking these steps can help reduce your risk of becoming infected after exposure.

Do I need to isolate if I test positive for Norovirus?

Norovirus is highly contagious so you must stay at home and avoid contact with others if you test positive for the virus or have any symptoms.

Suggested reading: Check out our guide on how to test for Norovirus if you want to find out more about testing protocols and control measures.

Outbreak Management

What are the signs of a Norovirus outbreak?

The Norovirus illness can spread quickly leading to an outbreak in schools, care homes, or workplaces. You must be aware of the signs of a Norovirus outbreak and act quickly to minimise the spread of infections.

Infected individuals are likely to have similar symptoms which may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low-grade fever

What should I do if I suspect a Norovirus outbreak?

You must act quickly if you suspect a Norovirus outbreak and take the appropriate steps to control the spread of the infection. Any viral outbreak should be reported to the relevant authorities and you should maintain clear communication with employees and stakeholders in the workplace.

How is Norovirus being contained and controlled?

Anyone displaying symptoms of Norovirus should be told to stay at home until they have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours.

You should also restrict access to affected areas and arrange a specialist disinfection service to eliminate infectious bacteria and reduce the risk of infection.

What can be done to prevent future outbreaks?

You must assess the effectiveness of control measures and take necessary steps to prevent future Norovirus illness outbreaks.

This may involve:

  • Improving hygiene practices in the workplace e.g. by placing signs reminding employees of the correct hand washing techniques.
  • Providing personal hygiene training to ensure a high standard of hygiene in the workplace.
  • Improving cleaning and disinfection protocols in the workplace.
  • Hiring professional cleaners to improve hygiene standards.
Disinfecting wipes to wipe surface of desk, keyboard, mouse at office

The Role of Ultima Environmental in Norovirus Decontamination and Disease Control

Professional decontamination services

At Ultima, we offer professional disease control services for Norovirus, Strep A, Covid-19, and Avian Flu.

Our fully-trained cleaners will visit your site and carry out a complete Norovirus infection control service that will kill infectious pathogens and eliminate the risk of infection.

This service will help you maintain the highest level of hygiene and protect your employees and visitors against Norovirus and other potentially harmful bacteria. We can visit your premises at a time that suits you to ensure minimal disruption to your business operations.

Expertise and industry standards

At Ultima, we provide a fully-regulated Norovirus infection control service that will eliminate infectious bacteria and protect you and your employees against the risk of infection.

Our biohazard cleaners have provided infectious control services in London and surrounding areas for over 20 years. You can have confidence knowing that our team has the experience and knowledge to meet your hygiene requirements and control Norovirus outbreaks.

Customised solutions for various settings

At Ultima Environmental, we can tailor our services to meet the specific needs of different environments, such as schools, healthcare facilities, and commercial establishments.

Get in touch with our cleaning experts and we will create a tailored solution that meets your specific hygiene requirements.

Key takeaways

  • Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, is a common and highly contagious viral infection that can cause severe vomiting and diarrhoea.
  • You should take proactive steps to maintain a safe environment and protect yourself and others against the risk of infection.
  • If you suspect a Norovirus outbreak, you must act quickly and arrange a specialist disease control service to stop the bacteria from spreading.

Get in touch to arrange Norovirus infection control

Get in touch if you would like to arrange Norovirus infection control or have any questions about our services.

We provide specialist disinfection services throughout the UK and our infection control team will arrange to visit your premises as soon as possible.

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