In August 2022, researchers at Virginia Tech University and the University of Indiana announced they were testing a new vaccine that might help stop the spread of norovirus. If the test vaccine works, this could help prevent norovirus illness for thousands of people every year.
According to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, on average, norovirus causes:
- 900 deaths
- 110,000 hospitalizations
- 450,000 emergency room visits
- More than 20 million cases of vomiting and diarrhea illnesses.
Pondering a common yet challenging illness
You may wonder why scientists have not already created a vaccine for this highly contagious illness. Creating an effective norovirus vaccine has proven to be a challenge. Unlike many other viruses, including coronavirus, researchers report that norovirus pathogens cannot be cultivated efficiently in cell cultures. In addition, testing these vaccines in animals has been problematic. When infected with the virus, mice get a form of norovirus, but it is not the same disease that impacts humans.
As a result, researchers can only report they are trying to develop a vaccine. It is still unknow when they will introduce it and how effective it will be. Despite the uncertainties, there are still many things health officials know about norovirus:
- Norovirus is seasonal. It occurs most often between November and April. Why this happens is up for debate. Many researchers believe it is because more of us are indoors this time of the year, making the disease easier to spread.
- Norovirus occurs on land and sea. Norovirus makes headlines when it occurs on crowded cruise ships. However, norovirus is far more common on land than at sea.
- Norovirus is common to certain locations. While someone can contract norovirus just about anywhere, it most commonly occurs in schools and universities, restaurants and food service facilities (including cafeterias and banquet halls), and health care facilities, including senior and long-term care residences. The CDC provides a map of confirmed norovirus outbreaks each week in participating states.
- Norovirus has unpleasant symptoms. Those who contract norovirus suffer cramping, nausea, diarrhea, and what is referred to as “forceful” vomiting or splatter that quickly becomes airborne.
- Norovirus pathogens become airborne. The virus usually spreads when we touch a contaminated surface and then touch food (which we later consume), our eyes, or our mouth. Norovirus pathogens can spread as much as 25 feet when they become airborne.
All these points tell us that until a vaccine is developed, we will have to depend on good hygiene habits—such as thorough and frequent handwashing—and well-trained cleaning professionals to help us slow the spread of this disease.
Gather germ-fighting tools
Before undertaking a professional cleaning of a norovirus spill, cleaning contractors, facility managers, and custodians need to obtain the necessary cleaning tools and supplies. Their best source is a jansan distributor familiar with cleaning up viruses in general and norovirus in particular. Because the virus is so contagious, “trial and error” purchasing is out of the question.
Gather the following tools:
- Goggles. Be aware there are different types of goggles (also known as safety glasses) such as vented, indirect vented, and non-vented. Your distributor will likely suggest wearing only non-vented goggles, because they help prevent the passage of liquids or vapors into the eyes.
- Face protection. If you wear the proper goggles, face protection or shields may be unnecessary. However, make sure not to touch your face when cleaning norovirus splatter.
- Gloves. Always wear rubber disposable gloves when cleaning norovirus spills and learn how to remove them without contaminating your hands. Grab the corner of the glove and then peel it over your hand, turning it inside out as you remove it. hand. Dispose of gloves into a lined trash can.
- Gowns and aprons. Wearing protective, disposable gowns or aprons is highly recommended and may be required in some settings.
- Spill kits. Consider purchasing spill kits, which contain absorbent that soaks up the splatter making it easier and safer to clean and dispose of it.
Other tools and supplies to consider include scoop and scrape tools, shoe covers, very absorbent paper towels, and drawstring trash liners. Once again, a jansan distributor can offer advice on which to select.
Follow a cleanup procedure
Before discussing the cleanup procedure, we must remember something pointed out earlier: the airborne pathogens that cause norovirus can spread as much as 25 feet. This means that not only must you clean the immediate spill, but also the bottoms and tops of furniture, including tables, as well as the floor within a 25-foot range.
Here are some of the critical steps to follow:
- Place a lined trash can nearby to dispose of any items used to clean the spill.
- Absorb as much of the spill as possible using paper towels or absorbent.
- Clean surfaces first by using an all-purpose cleaning solution and microfiber cleaning cloths.
- When mopping the floor, change the mop frequently and dispose of the mop head after each use. Also, frequently change the cleaning solution, cleaning and rinsing the mop bucket and mop handle after every refill.
- Disinfect all the same areas mentioned earlier using a properly diluted bleach and water mixture. Or consider an EPA-registered disinfectant that has been proven effective against norovirus, which may be easier and safer to use. Follow all mixing and dwell time instructions.
- When you’ve finished cleaning, place all disposable items in the lined trash can, then dispose of it in an outdoor garbage receptacle or dumpster.
The final step involves cleaning yourself. Wash your hands for at least 60 seconds in hot, soapy water. Remove clothing worn during the cleanup as soon as possible and launder it. After removing your clothing, as well as your shoes, be sure to wash your hands once again. If possible, take a shower before returning to work.
Cleaning a norovirus spill protects others, but always remember we must protect ourselves too. Following proper procedures such as those outlined in this article can make the process safer, healthier, easier, and much quicker for you and your cleaning staff.