Cleaning Up After a Norovirus Outbreak

By Robert Kravitz

Cleaning Up After a Norovirus Outbreak

In an earlier article, we discussed some of the complexities of norovirus and norovirus outbreaks and what building managers and cleaning contractors should know about this disease.  Now we must address how to clean-up a vomiting incident caused by norovirus.

As we mentioned in an earlier article, especially if the vomiting incident has happened in a restaurant or food service establishment, we must always assume it is caused by someone having norovirus.  This is the only safe and effective way to approach the clean-up operation.

With this understood, the following are the key steps in the clean-up process:

  • Block off the entire area; because of the forceful vomiting, it is possible that aerosolized pathogens have landed on surfaces as far as 25-feet away from the incident.
  • All cleaning workers must wear protective gear.  This includes gloves as well as goggles.  As to our eyes, we must remember that if the aerosolized pathogens find a way into our eyes, we can get the disease.
  • Remove chairs, tables, and furniture in the incident area. This way, we can also wipe down any traces of the vomit found on walls or surrounding surfaces.
  • Do not mop the floor; mopping the floor will spread pathogens over the floor, on to walls, and any surfaces touched by the mop.
  • A dispense-and-vac system is an ideal way to clean the floor area. First, use the system with an all-purpose cleaning solution.  Spread the solution over the floor using the machine, being sure to get into grout areas. Then vacuum the entire area, removing all moisture and traces of the incident.
  • Empty the dispense-and-vac system, rinse and then clean the trolley bucket with an all-purpose cleaner and then a disinfectant.  Similarly, draw diluted all-purpose cleaner and then disinfectant through the vacuum hose to help disinfect the interior walls of the vacuum hose.
    • Now, use the dispense-and-vac machine, again cleaning the same floor area, but this time using a disinfectant. Vacuum the entire area dry. Cleaning the floor first with an all-purpose cleaner and again with a disinfectant allows the disinfectant to work more effectively
    • Rinse, clean, and disinfect the dispense-and-vac system once again and allow to air-dry.

Our final steps involve cleaning and disinfecting all furniture, counters, light switches, and other surfaces in the 25-foot radius from the incident.  This is crucial because norovirus is very often spread through cross-contamination: we touch a surface contaminated with the disease and then touch our mouths, eyes, or nose.  Making this step even more crucial is the fact that norovirus pathogens can live up to two weeks on a surface, much longer than most pathogens.

To clean-up surfaces, use SmartTowels, a microfiber towel that can be folded into quadrants, allowing you to use only one quadrant at a time.  Further, extra strength wipes allow users to clean and disinfect surfaces and then properly dispose of the wipe.

Our final step in the process is to safely remove all protective gear and then dispose of it. Place protective gear in a trash liner, secure the top, and then place in an outside dumpster, preferably away from the building.

For more information on floor spill clean-up operations and tools that make the process easier and faster, contact a Kaivac representative.

Robert Kravitz

Robert Kravitz

Robert Kravitz is a former building service contractor, having owned, operated, and then sold three contract cleaning companies in Northern California.

He is the author of two books about the industry and continues to be a frequent writer for the industry. 

Robert is now president of AlturaSolutions Communications, which provides communications and marketing services for organizations in the professional cleaning and building industries.

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