Published: 12 Apr 2016

As a result of recent reports of suspected Norovirus outbreaks amongst guests and staff in the hospitality/leisure industry, we take a closer look at the implications and practical methods to limit exposure to this virus.

The Virus

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that are the most common cause of stomach bugs (gastroenteritis) in the UK. They are also known as small round structured viruses (SRSV) or Norwalk-like viruses.

Between 600,000 and 1 million people in the UK catch norovirus every year. You may have heard of it as the “winter vomiting bug” because the illness is more common in winter. However, the virus can be caught at any time of the year.

What are the symptoms of illness caused by noroviruses?

The symptoms of norovirus illness usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults. Most people with norovirus illness have both diarrhoea and vomiting.

People can become infected with Norovirus in several ways including:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth
  • Having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with the illness, sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).

If you suspect that you have an outbreak of vomiting and diarrhoea on your premises, contact your Environmental Health Department immediately. Public Health UK can also be consulted for further practical advice.

All staff members should be informed of the absolute importance of maintaining very high levels of hygiene throughout the unit. All usual cleaning routines are to be increased. Clean all areas with a disinfection solution using 500ppm hypochlorite. Similarly, products such as Biofreshner 021600 and Viroside if used in conjunction with manufacturer’s instruction and relevant PPE can also be used in the cleaning operation.

What should I do if I suspect a Norovirus within my operation?

  • Increase and if necessary reinforce all hygiene standards.
  • Locate and safely dispose of any vomit. This needs to done in accordance with the relevant risk assessment.
  • Restrict the movements of affected people.
  • Implement robust disinfection procedures; particularly of hand contact points; door handles, hand rails, lift buttons, telephones etc.
  • Ensure ready to eat foods such as fruit and salads are carefully washed and or removed from service to avoid transmission.
  • All staff members should be told to report any symptoms, however minimal.
  • All sick staff to be placed off duty until they are at least 48 hours clear of all symptoms.
  • All staff, particularly those affected, to be fastidious over personal hygiene.
  • Staff to immediately report any soiled areas.
  • Provide sanitising gel packs for staff and make available for guests.
  • Notices should be placed in toilets requesting regular hand washing and the reporting of any dirty areas discovered in toilets.

If you encounter a norovirus outbreak: CSC helpline subscribers please contact the CSC helpline for assistance.