There are many misunderstandings about norovirus. One involves the seriousness of the disease. While it can make people very sick for two to three days, causing what is called “forceful vomiting,” rarely does anyone die of norovirus. In fact, many people contract the disease and have few if any symptoms at all.
Related to the severity of the disease, typically people come down with norovirus within 12-48 hours of contact with the germs and bacteria that cause the disease. This is helpful because if there is a norovirus outbreak, public health administrators ask people where they have been in the past few hours or what restaurants they have visited. Typically, those inflicted with the disease will all point to the same culprit.
Another thing we should know is that while norovirus gets considerable media attention when it happens on a cruise ship, there are far more incidents of the disease on land. What makes it more serious on a cruise ship – and thus the added media attention – is that it can spread so fast. Within a day or two, scores of people may become sick on a ship. On land, if people contract norovirus after eating at the same restaurant, it’s possible only a handful come down with the disease, and many of those cases are never reported.
So now that we have a better understanding of norovirus let’s discuss how to clean up a norovirus vomiting incident. Here are some of the things you need to know:
- Always protect yourself first. Protective gear such as a face mask, gloves, goggles, disposable aprons, shoe coverings, should be worn and stored together. There will be no time to look for these items when a norovirus vomiting incident occurs therefore it is recommended to have an RTU Clean up Kit on hand.
- Expect most of the incident to be on the floor. But because we mentioned that norovirus causes “forceful vomiting,” much of the vomit will become airborne. Tests have shown that it can travel as far as 25 feet before landing on a surface. This means that after putting on protective gear, the next step is to block off an area of about 25 feet in circumference. It also means that all surfaces – ledges, tables, floors, high-touch areas, etc. – will need to be cleaned and disinfected within that 25-foot area.
- Cover the incident with paper towels. There are spill pads also available designed specifically for cleaning up such incidents. The goal is to remove all traces of the incident and then place the paper towels or spill pads in a trash liner.
- Our next step is to use an all-purpose cleaner to wipe clean the incident area and surrounding surfaces that may have been touched by airborne droplets. Remember, we clean first, then disinfect. Place all used wipes and towels in the trash liner. Cloth or microfiber towels are not to be laundered or used again.
- With this completed, now we must disinfect the incident and surrounding areas. Time is of the essence when cleaning up a norovirus. Selecting a disinfectant designed to kill norovirus in five minutes will speed up the process of protecting the health of the cleaning worker as well as building users. Again, place all used wipes and towels in the trash liner.
- Once the immediate incident area has been cleaned, tightly seal all trash liners dispose of them outside, in a trash container or dumpster.
- As a final step, the entire floor area should be damp mopped using a neutral floor cleaner. It can also be mopped again, using fresh mops and a clean bucket, with a disinfectant for added safety and health protection.
Oh, and we forgot something. How do cleaning professionals know if someone gets sick in a restaurant, for instance, that its caused by norovirus? The answer is we don’t. Because of this, we must always assume any vomiting incident is caused by norovirus. That helps ensure everyone’s health is protected.