Norovirus guidance

Formally known as Norwalk like virus (NLV), Norovirus is an infection that can occur throughout the year but is more common in the winter. It often causes large numbers of people to become ill and the spread of infection is rapid.

The most frequent symptom is sudden vomiting. Other symptoms may include diarrhoea, nausea, headache, mild fever and muscle aches.

Symptoms usually last between 1 to 2 days, but it can take a little longer to feel completely well.

There is no specific treatment as antibiotics are not effective against viruses, but it is important to drink plenty of water.

Scope

This guidance is intended for use in:

care homes and other residential accommodation

  • hotels
  • bed and breakfast
  • mobile home parks
  • similar accommodation to the above

How Norovirus is spread

When people vomit, the virus is released into the air. This may infect other people or contaminate food which is in the vicinity. Surfaces will also become contaminated which when touched may also lead to infection.

The virus can also be excreted in faeces leading to possible contamination of the hands and infection via the faecal/oral route.

Taking action

If two or more people develop symptoms, especially vomiting this may indicate the start of an outbreak of norovirus. It is very important to act quickly.

Our supporting notes describe the procedures you need to follow in the event of an outbreak of norovirus. We recommend that you keep a weekly record for your reference. We encourage you to report a norovirus outbreak or suspected outbreak. There is no fee.

Vomiting

It is vitally important to immediately react when somebody vomits in a public area.

The vomit should be covered, and the area evacuated. Close doors and open windows. The vomit should be wiped up and then steam cleaned or scrubbed with very hot soapy water. Alternatively, hard surfaces should be disinfected with a bleach solution. Do not vacuum. Dispose of all buffet or other open food which is in the room.

Hygiene matters

Introduce hourly cleaning and disinfection of public toilets with a bleach solution paying particular attention to toilet seats, taps, door and toilet handles.

Stress the importance of thorough hand washing particularly after visiting the toilet.

Our supporting notes describe the correct hand washing procedure.

Good practice for staff and residents

We advise staff to report all incidents of vomiting.

Staff should read our supporting notes which describe the procedures to follow in the event of a Norovirus outbreak and keep a Weekly Illness Record.

Those affected should be advised to stay in their rooms whilst they have symptoms.

Staff and residents should be advised of the outbreak and when working in affected areas staff must wear gloves and aprons.

Any staff member with the symptoms must be excluded from work.

Reporting

Please report a Norovirus outbreak, or suspected outbreak:

We recommend that you keep a Weekly Illness Record for your reference.

Further information

This information is only a brief guide, for further information please read our Supporting Notes which describe the procedures to follow in the event of a Norovirus outbreak. You can also email us or Public Health England.

Another good source of information on all aspects of food safety is Foodlink.

Page last updated: 26 November 2018
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