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Norovirus - Transmission and Clean-Up

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

During the winter months, occurrences of norovirus outbreaks increase. According to the CDC, Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States. More specifically, Noroviruses are the most common cause of sporadic cases and outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of stomach lining and intestines). Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in people of all ages and it is responsible for greater than 50% of all foodborne gastroenteritis outbreaks. CDC estimates that 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis are due to Norovirus infection

Noroviruses can be highly contagious, and it is thought that as few as 10-18 viral particles may be sufficient to infect an individual. Transmission occurs via foodborne and person-to-person routes, airborne inhalation of vomitus droplets, and also through contact with contaminated environmental surfaces. Good evidence exists for transmission due to aerosolization of vomitus that presumably results in droplets contaminating surfaces or entering the oral mucosa and being swallowed. In addition, the potential transmission level of Norovirus shed in the feces at levels up to 1 trillion viral particles per gram of feces and one projectile vomiting incident can contaminate the environment with 300,000 viral particles.

Norovirus causes an acute onset of vomiting (often explosive) and diarrhea (also often explosive) which can contaminate surfaces and become airborne increasing the chances of additional infections. A recent study has also shown that the bathroom environment was identified as a major reservoir of human Norovirus, even in the absence of an ill individual on site.

Proper Clean-Up is Important

Studies have shown that Norovirus can survive on fomite surfaces (clothes, shelves, tables) for up to at least 5 days at room temperature and that routine cleaning, without a disinfectant specifically to address Norovirus, may be ineffective in eliminating its presence on surfaces and can even serve as a means of spreading the virus to other fomites. Effective clean-up of vomitus and fecal matter in a food establishment should be handled differently from routine cleaning procedures. Check out the video below.

Download this poster here.


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