Luke Rutterford, from Rentokil Initial, outlines the dangers of, and protocols for dealing with, norovirus
Public Health England (PHE) posts a weekly report of suspected/confirmed cases of norovirus and rotavirus in hospitals. The latest figures show norovirus activity to be currently lower than in previous years, but its variable nature means that no two seasons are ever the same.
Unpleasant for anyone, norovirus can be life threatening for the elderly. Research has looked at the number of deaths amongst the elderly associated with gastrointestinal pathogens between 2001-2006. The results suggested that 20% of deaths in persons 65 years of age or older caused by infectious intestinal disease other than Clostridium difficile, were associated with norovirus infection in this period, and that 13% of deaths caused by non-infectious intestinal disease were associated with norovirus.
Young children are also at high risk of contracting the virus. A review study found that an estimated 5.7 million children aged under five years contract norovirus each year in the European Union. The same research suggested that these cases led to approximately 800,000 medical visits, 53,000 hospitalisations and 102 deaths in children under the age of five in the EU annually.
Whereas self-care is usually enough to help non-vulnerable people recover – i.e. staying at home, getting lots of rest and taking on plenty of fluids – the road to recovery can be much longer and more complex for vulnerable individuals. In order to protect these groups of people from potential infection in the dental practice, stringent infection control procedures are vital.
Good hand-washing protocols are the most basic line of defence and one of the most valuable, so reviewing and refreshing the guidelines with all members of staff is important. Efficient cleaning and disinfection of all areas of the practice should also be performed on a routine basis, including both clinical and non-clinical areas such as the chairs and tables in the waiting room, door handles throughout the premises, other communal spaces and children’s play areas.
Of equal importance are the disinfectant products you use. Seeking out solutions that will help you achieve the highest standards of hygiene on a daily basis is essential. Multi-purpose cleaners that can be used on almost every surface and material will allow your team to carry out enhanced hygiene processes. For example, the Steri-7 Xtra range from Initial Medical includes a surface cleaner with innovative technology to keep treated areas contamination free for up to 72 hours between cleaning cycles.
According to a recent survey, 89% of the dental practices questioned said they had an infection outbreak protocol, with 9% not having one defined and 2% not sure. Encouragingly, 100% of dental practices surveyed claimed to give the non-surgical areas of the premises a ‘deep clean’ after an infection outbreak.
Re-infection is of particular concern in any confined environment and an individual will be most contagious during the first few days after recovery. As such, patient education is just as important as in-practice protocols, preventing seemingly recovered patients from unwittingly passing the infection on.
Anticipating the threat of norovirus and being prepared are the most effective ways of protecting both your patients and your colleagues. Make sure you’re ready this winter.
For more information visit www.initial.co.uk/medical
Luke Rutterford is the technical Manager for Rentokil Initial