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Not a pleasant subject to highlight, but an important one nonetheless! And I am hoping this article will help you ensure that your staff and customers are protected as much as they can be!  Scroll down to read about what you need to know, what you should do and the tools you require. 

Also known as the winter vomiting bug, Norovirus is the most common stomach bug in the UK.
It’s also highly contagious and in recent weeks you may have seen news reports about outbreaks in the UK. These have happened in Nottingham and Dudley, and a suspected outbreak in Blackpool.

Norovirus outbreaks are most commonly associated with cruise ships, however latest statistics suggest we are more likely to contract the virus in a local restaurant. Cleaning professionals must be trained to deal with incidences to prevent its quick spread, and must use appropriate tools.

In November 2016, several branches of a favourite Mexican restaurant chain in London were forced to close because restaurant staff and guests became sick with norovirus. Altogether more than 350 people became ill with the disease.

It’s not surprising that this happened in November. Norovirus is often referred to as the “winter vomiting bug” because it seems the most cases are reported between October and April of each year. And last winter the disease apparently made its way through many parts of Europe.

By December 2016 Public Health England reported there had already been 2,435 cases of the disease, 12 per cent more than average for the same period in the past five years. Further, and somewhat startling, “this figure was 71 per cent higher than the same period last year”, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper. However, the newspaper did add that last winter the number of norovirus cases was below average.

As of April 2016, Denmark reported a high number of cases of norovirus, mostly because of lettuce imported from France and served in restaurants as well as marketed to consumers. And in October 2016 a news story in a Luxembourg publication reported that “norovirus has hit Lorraine (France) and the east of France hard in the middle of October”.

As to the health impacts of norovirus, while it is a very contagious disease and can be a serious health problem for the very young and the very old, the nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea it causes are rarely life-threatening. Usually, after two to three days it’s gone.

At this point, many readers may be asking “isn’t norovirus a disease you get on a ship at sea?” Well we most commonly hear about it when it spreads on a cruise ship. But according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are more likely to get sick from norovirus in a local restaurant - such as the chain mentioned in London - than on a cruise ship sailing in some exotic locale.

It tends to happen more frequently in restaurants because kitchen workers do not always adhere to proper hand hygiene rules. Sometimes it is the result of imported food contaminated with the disease, as in Denmark.
But there are other reasons it can spread in restaurants and that’s where cleaning professionals - both contractors and in-house cleaning teams - come in.

Here’s what you need to know

  • When someone gets sick in a restaurant, and we are referring to vomit, it must always be assumed that the cause is not the cooking but norovirus
  • Norovirus, as we said earlier, is known as the vomiting disease. When someone vomits with the disease, they often vomit forcefully with pathogens becoming airborne and spreading as much as 7.62 metres (25 feet)
  • High-touch areas such as chairs, counters, tables, near-by high-touch areas, exposed glass and silverware, all within this 7.62-metre area can be coated with the pathogens of the virus without anyone being aware of it
  • Only a small amount of norovirus particles, fewer than 100, can cause someone to get sick
  • Here’s the big decisive factor. Whereas most germs, bacteria, and viruses that land on surfaces only survive a few hours or a day, norovirus pathogens can last a few days, even a week or more.

This explains why it is so highly contagious and why we in the cleaning industry need to know more about how to clean up after someone gets sick and what tools and products are necessary to do it properly. This is true whether the incident is in a restaurant, a school, a hotel, convention centre, or any public building.

Tools required

  • A ‘spill clean-up kit’.  A quick and easy solution to the removal of body-spillages, combining the absorption power of Sanitaire with the germicidal and odour neutralising efficacy of Sta-kill in one handy pack containing: latex gloves, a scoop, and a tough disposal bag, meaning accidental body spills can be cleaned away safely and efficiently. Buy/view Sanitaire Clean-Up Kit here.
  • A disinfectant (Sta-Kill included in spill clean-up kit)

The clean-up crew should always be instructed how to clean up a vomiting or bodily fluid spill incident. But having the instructions handy for quick and easy reference is always a good idea.

What you should do

Based on all we have discussed so far, it should be clear that norovirus is highly transmissible, and this applies to cleaning workers. If the clean-up is not done properly not only can the disease spread to other building users, but to the cleaning workers themselves.

The first thing cleaning workers should do when purchasing a spill clean-up kit is read the instructions included with the kit if they are included. Even better, work with a distributor familiar with the norovirus clean-up process. Typically, the instructions and the distributor will suggest the following:

  • Using warning signs, block off the entire area around the spill in a radius of about 7.62m from the incident.
  • Workers in charge of the clean-up operation should put on protective gear such as gloves (provided in spill kit and additionally face masks).  Buy/view your masks here.
  • Remove any chairs or furniture in the immediate area.
  • Place the granules over the incident (included in spill kit). Buy/view your replacement Sanitaire Powder here.
  • Spray disinfectant over the above and the surrounding area (included in spill kit) and allow for proper dwell time to complete the process. Buy/view your replacement Sta-Kill here
  • Scoop as much of the spill as possible into the bag provided.
  • Further wipe the area with a disposable towels/cloth.
  • Place the the towels/cloths in the disposable rubbish bag and secure; waste bags should be disposed of in a receptacle outside of the facility.
  • The floor area should be cleaned and disinfected with the Sta-Kill Biocidal Cleaner and Deodoriser. Mop the entire area and then mop again using a Safezone Disinfectant, a two-step process.
  • Finish by cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces, objects, ledges, tables, chairs, walls - anything around the incident.  Keep in mind how far the airborne pathogens can spread.
  • Finally remove and dispose of all protective gear, thoroughly wash hands, and then inspect the area just cleaned.

It’s this final step that is so important. Don’t be in a rush to open the area to traffic. The final inspection helps make certain the area is thoroughly cleaned so no one gets sick.