- Norovirus is HIGHLY CONTAGIOUS and spreads through contact. Especially faeces, vomit and urine.
- The symptoms of norovirus or rotavirus are EXACTLY the same as food poisoning: 24 -48 hours of stomach cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting.
- It DOES spread through food. It also spreads through human contact, surfaces touched by infected people, shared glasses, drinks & food, kissing, shaking hands and more. It also spreads through bed linen, taps, door handles, phones, crockery and keyboards. In short, it spreads infection rapidly on any and every surface with even a few microscopic particles of feces or vomit
- If your establishment gets one or two customers with Norovirus, that's enough for it to spread rapidly, especially in a place like a hotel, boarding house, aircraft or cruise ship.
It's very likely that it will be passed onto new guests moving into recently vacated rooms or cabins – as well as through buffets, bars, and public toilets.
- This illness can’t be detected by a bacteria test. A stool sample (faeces) needs to be taken from a guest with “food poisoning” and it needs to be identified by the viral DNA. In a remote or controlled environment, this can be difficult to obtain as specialised testing facilities are usually only available in larger cities. The test takes approximately 48 hours to return a result
- Norovirus and rotovirus can be managed or contained by immediate action, but everybody needs to be on board, and understand what is going on.
- Like flu viruses, norovirus can live after leaving a human host. It's very hardy and can live up to one month on an inanimate surface like a door handle, tap, pillow, telephone, keyboard, bill folder, table, cruet set etc.
In other words, it takes more than a battle to control it. It needs to be an all-out war.
The damage is almost always associated with “food poisoning” – which in fact it isn't. But nobody “knows” Norovirus, and everybody “knows” the symptoms of food poisoning.
This virus is responsible for shutting down entire schools and hospitals in the
UK, and for closing down whole cruise ships in Europefor weeks or more at a time. Closing the business to guests and blanket-sanitising every surface several times at double strength over several days is the best way to kill an infection, and obviously a call that no GM or owner wants to make.
Not doing this can lead to ongoing outbreaks as the virus is very resilient, and hard to kill
Guests who don't get an informed or consistent account of what they are actually getting sick from will suspect food poisoning first, then a cover-up. Infection spreads so quickly, so it's important to have a contingency plan in place before an outbreak takes place, and be equipped to inform and assist guests.
NOROVIRUS travels easily with groups of people, and spreads amongst that group by even the slightest contact with particles of vomit or feces. Cruise ships, aircraft, hospitals, boarding schools, resorts and remote hotels are ideal places to spread the virus rapidly through a captive audience. As these people leave, they spread the virus further afield. As new guests come, they fall sick after touching surfaces infected by the previous batch of travellers or residents
It's really important to handle an outbreak quickly and definitively, with straightforward procedures.
Here's a previous post on how to recognise a norovirus outbreak, and what to do about it