Blog | Thursday, March 2, 2017

Beating back the norovirus devil


Well, many of us have sick feelings in our stomachs these days. It's norovirus season and the media is filled with the usual scary reports, “hard to get rid of“ and “schools closing“, that generally provide non-specific information about how to prevent transmission in your home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does have useful information online and in graphic form. So, with homage to Maryn McKenna's excellent book about CDC's EIS, I offer my tips for beating norovirus in your home.

A bit of background on why I've put forth these recommendations: We've had three episodes of likely norovirus cases in our home since my initial norovirus post in 2013 and zero cases of transmission. Below is my 2017 case report with steps we took to prevent transmission:

Approximately 3 weeks ago, we had a group of five 10-year-old kids at our house for a party. At some point, one of the kids started feeling sick and spit up a bit in our trash can and then while trying to get to the bathroom vomited in our family room and near our front door before finally making it to a toilet. Thus, we had 3+ areas to decontaminate and 7 at-risk people we needed to protect. We immediately sent the other kids to the lower level, donned gloves and began the clean-up procedures.

1) We made sure that the sick child stayed in or near the bathroom and also made sure he closed the lid prior to flushing the toilet and poured a cup of bleach into the toilet before we flushed the toilet again. Once the child was picked up by their parent, we put the bathroom off limits.

2) We quickly blotted up the emesis in the living room and front hall with towels, being careful to not spray the virus. We then washed all of the towels twice in the hottest water setting and dried them until practically burnt (humor).

3) We removed all glasses, plates, silverware, xbox controllers and other things the child might have touched from circulation. The things we could wash in the dishwasher were washed 3 times and we used the drying cycle (which we usually don't use).

4) We used these bleach wipes (Clorox 35309 Healthcare Bleach Germicidal Wipe), which have activity vs. norovirus, twice on each hard surface (bathroom, floor, XBox controller) to make sure we achieved adequate contact time.

5) For soft surfaces, that couldn't be laundered, we used (Clorox Healthcare Hydrogen Peroxide Spray) after first testing that it was color safe on our carpet.

6) And we enforced strict hand hygiene in the house for the next few days, using only soap and water.

I hope this helps; be careful out there.

Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands). This post originally appeared at the blog Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention.