Media coverage over the last several years has allowed many of us to believe that norovirus is an illness that most impacts cruise ship passengers. However, there are far more cases of norovirus on land than at sea.
Something else that may come as a surprise is that norovirus tends to be seasonal, at least on land. The peak “season” for norovirus is typically from late October until April.
We should also note that there are some good and some not-so-good characteristics about norovirus when compared to other viruses. The good is that instances of death are rare for people who become infected. Typically, people experience flu-like symptoms that can range from being very mild to very serious. Further, the illness typically only lasts one to three days.
But one not-so-good symptom of norovirus is that during the period when people have this illness, they tend to vomit a lot. This is why norovirus is often referred to as the “vomiting disease.” What makes matters even more concerning is that when people who have the illness become sick, they often have what is termed “forceful” vomiting. This means that norovirus microorganisms can spread into the air, landing on surfaces within a 25-foot radius of the person who is ill.
Another not-so-good characteristic is the fact that norovirus microorganisms can live on surfaces for as long as two weeks. This is significant when compared to most other types of pathogens, which tend to die within hours or a day or two once they land on a surface.
This creates problems for building administrators as well as cleaning professionals. When cleaning up after a norovirus incident, cleaning workers may adequately clean and disinfect the immediate area, but may not clean the outlying areas that could also be contaminated. This becomes a very serious concern in a commercial kitchen, where germs on surfaces can be touched and then passed on to food items being prepared.
In a medical setting, doctors, nurses, and staff may also touch contaminated surfaces, again spreading germs to other surfaces, and increasing the possibility that others will become sick with norovirus. The same is true in schools and senior care locations. Typically, cases of norovirus among young children or older people are the most serious.
To improve cleaning effectiveness and to better determine which areas in a facility should be cleaned after a vomiting incident, administrators and cleaning professionals once turned to adenosine triphosphate (ATP) bioluminescence measurement systems.
While ATP systems can report within seconds if there are potential pathogens on a surface that might cause norovirus, their results are limited and variable. The results only reflect status of the immediate area tested. There is no analysis of surrounding areas, nor are ATP systems able to show where pathogens may be hiding. This can result in a false sense of confidence if the ATP system indicates there are no potential pathogens present, when there really are.
Fortunately, there are technologies that tell a more complete story by indicating more precisely what is happening on a larger surface area. These advanced imaging technologies, such as OptiSolve’s Pathfinder, indicate where potentially harmful pathogens are located and in what density.
Now administrators and cleaning professionals have a much better idea of what happens to pathogens once they become airborne and then land. The result: there is a much greater chance that pathogens, especially after an outbreak incident, can be eliminated, and the health of building users protected.