Norovirus, the most common cause of infectious gastroenteritis (diarrhoea and vomiting) in England and Wales, is very contagious and can be transmitted by contact with an infected person, by consuming contaminated food (oysters being the most common) or by contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. The illness is generally mild and people usually recover fully within 2-3 days; there are no long term effects that result from being infected.
The disease is commonly known as the ‘winter vomiting disease’ due to its seasonality and typical symptoms. The disease is more prominent during the winter months but infections can occur at any time of the year. Outbreaks of norovirus gastroenteritis are common in semi-closed environments such as restaurant kitchens, hospitals, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships. A common factor in contributing to outbreaks is food-handlers returning to work too soon after illness.
If any of your staff members think they have the norovirus infection, or any other form of gastroenteritis, they MUST be excluded from work and not return until they have been free from symptoms for 48 hours. This is particularly important given the highly contagious nature of this virus. If staff are ill at work, infection control measures must be introduced to ensure any vomit is cleaned up and the area completely disinfected with a chemical effective against viruses.