Norovirus: Your unwanted annual visitor

Dementia Care
March 15, 2023

What is norovirus?

Norovirus is highly infectious and causes vomiting (often projectile), watery diarrhoea and a fever. It is easily transmitted through contact with infected individuals, contaminated surfaces or consumption of contaminated food or water.

So here we are again with mid-winter pressures, reading the usual UKHSA press release to let us know that norovirus (the winter vomiting bug) is once more on the increase in care and support settings in England. Recent figures detail 105 outbreaks in care homes across two weeks in February – the highest so far this season.

Norovirus is nothing new for care providers

For those of us who work in services, this is nothing new and we understand that by the time you realise you have an outbreak, it has already spread throughout the service and the battle is on.

I remember only too well turning up to work one morning to the aroma of the winter vomiting bug, three traumatised night staff desperately wanting to escape to fresh air and being told to get the nose plugs and PPE at the ready as we were going to need them – a scenario many of you will be able to relate to.

Now we all know the importance of following standard infection control policies and procedures which will work to stop outbreaks and infections but, once an outbreak has hit your service, it’s all about damage limitation, what can be done to reduce the spread and the amount of time it has a grip on your service.

I was lucky enough to work in a service that had a very clear norovirus outbreak management plan in place with very clear roles, responsibilities and guidance for the team to follow in the event of a suspected or confirmed outbreak.

It may be something you want to consider implementing in your service or even just discussing at team meetings to ensure that your staff are prepared in the event of an outbreak. Guidelines for the management of norovirus outbreaks in acute and community health and social care settings can be a really useful resource for your team.

Do your staff know what to do in the event of an outbreak or even what defines an outbreak?

In order to manage an outbreak, the local health protection team needs to be informed and they will offer advice and guidance on how to move forward. This includes closing to visitors, isolation periods, deep cleaning and supporting you to declare your outbreak is over.

GPs can be supportive and provide advice for those who are clinically vulnerable, also ensuring that samples and testing are managed in a timely manner.

You could also take some time to remind your staff about:

  • Hand hygiene observations
  • PPE guidance
  • Laundry, cleaning and disinfection guidance
  • The Visitor’s policy
  • Isolation guidance and the stay at home requirement
  • Nutrition and hydration monitoring

Want to know more about Norovirus?

The NHS offers advice on checking symptoms. It advises that although it can be very unpleasant, norovirus usually goes away in about 2 days and where to seek advice if it doesn’t.

How QCS can help you

The QCS system comes with infection control and outbreak management policies and procedures.

Other relevant policies or resources available include:

  • Sickness Absence Policy and Procedure
  • Business Continuity Policy and Procedure
  • Hand Hygiene Audit Tool

Useful Information

Government guidance on how to reduce the spread of norovirus

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