Food Business Clean Up during a Norovirus Outbreak

Food Business Clean Up during a Norovirus Outbreak

Food Business Clean Up during a Norovirus Outbreak

Norovirus, better known as the winter vomiting bug, is the most common stomach bug in Ireland, affecting people of all ages. According to the HSE between 10,000 and 20,000 people per week in Ireland can catch norovirus in a peak period.

In humans, norovirus is spread two ways—directly by person-to-person transmission, the most common route, or indirectly through contaminated food, water, or the environment. Environmental transmission is reportedly low (0.35%),emerging evidence suggests contaminated surfaces play a more important role in the spread of norovirus than previously believed.


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), norovirus is the number one cause of diarrhoea or vomiting outbreaks spread by direct contact with an infected person or through touching a contaminated surface. This is not surprising, given that a single vomiting episode can release 30 million virus particles into the environment!

Faecal matter contains even higher numbers of particles - 104 to 1011 per gram with sick individuals producing 500 g/faeces per day. If contaminated surfaces are not properly cleaned and disinfected, these surfaces could be a source of this highly infectious virus, possibly causing or prolonging an outbreak through residual environmental contamination.

The relationship between surfaces contaminated with vomitus/faeces and norovirus outbreaks has been documented in a number of published epidemiological investigations. In a U.S. restaurant in 2006, 364 patrons and employees exhibited symptoms of a norovirus infection after an ill line cook vomited in the kitchen.

Once an outbreak has been identified, the facility must heighten environmental disinfection protocols. As it might take several days for confirmation from the local regulatory authority, protocols should be put into action immediately after a suspected outbreak has been identified. While many cleanup protocols specify increasing cleaning and disinfecting during an outbreak, there is no universal standard for the number of times a facility should be cleaned per day during an outbreak. CDC does recommend increasing cleaning areas to twice a day and high-touch surfaces to three times daily. One must consider the highest traffic times in bathrooms and other areas to determine how often to clean each area. The frequency of bathroom and toilet cleaning, especially high-touch surfaces, must also be increased. Lastly, it is important to remember that textile items can also become contaminated and so must be properly cleaned.

For more information relating to cleaning and contamination click on the link for The Primary Food Safety Level 2 Course  This course trains food workers in the skills and knowledge of food safety and HACCP.