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Emory issues Norovirus self-care guidelines for faculty, staff

Emory Report | Nov. 25, 2014

Emory faculty and staff can take steps to avoid becoming infected with Norovirus and prevent the spread of the illness to others, according to an all-staff email sent Tuesday by the human resources department.

"We wanted to make you aware of a potential outbreak of Norovirus amongst Emory students. Some Emory students have developed gastroenteritis symptoms in recent weeks. Norovirus is highly contagious, so it is important to follow CDC precautions to reduce risk of infection. The best weapons are fluids, rest and prevention," the email states.

The Georgia Public Health Laboratory and Emory Medical Lab has confirmed that patient samples taken during the initial outbreak of gastroenteritis among students Nov. 12 tested positive for Norovirus.

The all-staff email shared the following tips for prevention prepared for employees by Emory University Student Health and Counseling Services:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water. The best way to prevent the spread of Norovirus is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water, 20 seconds or more each time. Unfortunately, hand gels and foams do not work as well against Norovirus. We must always wash our hands after using the restroom and before preparing or serving food. This is important for all of us, since studies have shown it is possible to get a Norovirus infection and not become clinically ill. Therefore, everyone must be vigilant.
  • If you are ill with Norovirus or other gastrointestinal illnesses and need medical attention, you should seek care either at your primary care clinician's office or the Emory University Hospital Emergency Department.
  • If you have been ill:
    • Do not prepare or serve food to others for a full week after symptoms subside. This is particularly important with Thanksgiving family celebrations this week.
    • Do not provide care for others, especially small children, the elderly or individuals with immune compromise, who are most vulnerable to Norovirus. Because of the importance of this, it is not a bad idea to wait 2-3 weeks after symptoms subside (20% of individuals are still shedding virus after 2 weeks).
    • Avoid hand-sharing communal food (like popcorn or chips) for a full week after symptoms subside.
    • Do not use swimming pools for a full week after symptoms subside.
  • If surfaces are contaminated by vomit or diarrhea spillage: Clean and disinfect all surfaces contaminated by vomit or diarrhea spillage. Use a disinfectant with chlorine bleach at a concentration of 1000-5000 ppm or 5-25 tablespoons of household bleach (5.25%) per gallon of water. One option would be Clorox Healthcare® Bleach Germicidal Wipes (5500 ppm chlorine), and there are likely others. If unsure, check the label.
  • If clothes or laundry are contaminated by vomit of diarrhea spillage: Immediately remove and wash thoroughly any clothing or linens contaminated by an ill person.
    • Wash your hands thoroughly after handling contaminated laundry.
    • Wash laundry items with detergent on the longest cycle and machine dry them.
  • If you are not ill and are preparing or sharing food: Wash all fruits and vegetables and cook all seafood thoroughly.

An excellent two-page CDC fact sheet on Norovirus prevention can be found here.