By Paul Casson, Technical Field Manager, Rentokil Specialist Hygiene & Jamie Woodhall, Technical & Innovation Manager, Initial Washroom Hygiene
Autumn has brought a sharp drop in temperature. As is often the case, this has come hand in hand with a rise in news stories about Norovirus outbreaks.
A school in Lancashire was closed just a few weeks ago after 50 pupils and staff were taken ill with what is more commonly known as the “winter vomiting bug”.
Norovirus is one of the most common stomach bugs, with symptoms including sudden nausea, aching limbs, vomiting and diarrhoea. It is also highly contagious – fewer than 20 virus particles are necessary to cause infection.
With as many as 250 outbreaks affecting between 600,000 and a million people in the UK each year, businesses must review their hygiene processes for the upcoming winter months when we know there is a higher risk of vomiting bugs like Norovirus spreading.
Regular cleaning is essential
Schools can be challenging environments in which to prevent cross contamination due to the large number of people, shared spaces and equipment. It’s essential that businesses take action to ensure that their workplace doesn’t serve as a hotbed for viral infection.
Kitchen, dining areas and washrooms must be subject to vigilant daily and weekly cleaning routines. We advise that standard cleaning is scheduled and tracked, ensuring that it takes place regularly and on time. Organisations with hot-desking policies should also encourage staff to wipe down their desks at the end of each day by providing antibacterial wipes.
It might sound simple but encouraging proper handwashing will also help to prevent the spread of germs. Our hands are a natural breeding ground for germs and one of the principle carriers of harmful pathogens – in fact, 80% of infections are spread by hand. Ensuring your employees have access to essential handwashing tools – warm water, soap, drying facilities and ideally, hand sanitiser – is key. There should be ample supplies of these products in the washroom, kitchen and throughout the building, paired with handwashing reminders to encourage best practice.
On top of a regular cleaning regime, autumn is the perfect time to book in a thorough deep clean, preferably managed by a professional cleaning company that is trained to tackle those hard-to-reach or rarely seen areas where potentially harmful micro-organisms might be hiding.
Professional cleaners will have access to specialist multi-purpose biocidal cleaners, which can decontaminate surfaces by killing bacteria, fungi, spores, yeasts and viruses. A deep clean should include a thorough disinfection of high frequency touch points, as well as moving all furniture or equipment away from the walls to make sure no areas are missed from the cleaning routine. One powerful tool in the deep cleaning arsenal is Ultra Low Volume (ULV) disinfectant fogging. This involves specialist technicians generating a mist of disinfectant which settles on top of, underneath and on the sides of objects, enabling technicians to disinfect a large area in a short period of time.
In addition to prevention, it’s also important that if your premises and workers do fall victim to an outbreak of Norovirus, you react quickly to decontaminate the premises and make it fit and safe for purpose once again. ULV disinfection is one of the most effective tools in this instance, given the speed in which large areas can be disinfected and returned back to use.
We’d also recommend a proactive analysis of the environment, which can come in the form of a Hygiene Healthcheck’. This is where specialist technicians analyse the microbiological landscape and investigate levels of bacteria on various surfaces and touchpoints. With this information, they can create a heatmap to highlight the varying levels of microbiological activity throughout the building and identify any particular problem areas that need to be flagged for more frequent cleaning moving forward.
As Norovirus is considered a hardy virus, it is often transferable for several days, living on hard surfaces like door handles. It is important that any staff with Norovirus symptoms notify their workplace and stay away from work for at least 48 hours after the symptoms have ceased, to reduce the risk of the virus spreading further.
Proactivity is key to prevention. And while a regular cleaning regime and proactive hand hygiene is imperative in keeping winter illnesses like Norovirus at bay, specialist deep cleans will offer that extra level of protection.