WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS! Norovirus and Food Handling

Because I haven’t beaten that drum in a while. Carl Zimmer, drawing on this CDC report, gives us several tips on how to lessen your chances of getting norovirus (aka winter vomiting disease–trust me, it’s as fun as it sounds):

–Bleach-cleaning: “Because of this uncertainty, whenever possible, chlorine bleach solution should be applied to hard, nonporous, environmental surfaces at a concentration of 1,000–5,000 ppm (5–25 tablespoons household bleach [5.25%] per gallon of water).” Bathrooms, door knobs, and other places where the virus is likely to be lurking when someone’s sick in the house should be on the to-clean list.

–Hand-washing: “Overall, studies suggest that proper hand washing with soap and running water for at least 20 seconds is the most effective way to reduce norovirus contamination on the hands.” Forget all the fancy alcohol and antibiotic-laced potions.

–Don’t be Mister Tough Guy; stay at home!–”Considering the highly infectious nature of norovirus, exclusion and isolation of infected persons are often the most practical means of interrupting transmission of virus and limiting contamination of the environment.”

I’ll just add that the weak link in norovirus infection prevention is low-wage service workers, such as food handlers. From the CDC report (boldface mine):

Ill staff members in health-care facilities and food handlers should be excluded during their illness and for 48–72 hours following resolution of symptoms. Asymptommatic food-service workers who have tested positive for norovirus, which might occur during an outbreak investigation, also should be excluded or restricted per the FDA Food Code (10). Regulatory authority approval might be required for excluded food-service workers to return to work (10), although requiring negative stool results prior to returning to work is not recommended. Sick pay and sick leave policies that do not penalize ill workers might help to facilitate such staff exclusion.

The problem is that many food workers have a very simple sick leave policy–take sick leave and you’re fired. A sane political system would recognize that paid sick leave helps everyone. However, in our neo-liberal dystopia, we prefer that you have the freedom to puke your guts out.

Because freedom isn’t free.

This entry was posted in CDC, Food, Microbiology, Public Health, Viruses, Vomit. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to WASH YOUR DAMN HANDS! Norovirus and Food Handling

  1. joemac53 says:

    My wife hasn’t worked since last Thursday when she came home early, sick. She gave up her shifts since then trying to get better. Her regular doctor had no time to see her Friday, so tough luck. Sleeping the weekend away helped a little, but she went to work today well below 100%. Of course, she hasn’t earned any money either. It’s a good thing I’m Daddy Warbucks, those without any other source of income are going to work, sick or not. Not a great system.

  2. evilDoug says:

    Could someone please clue me in to “… reduce infectious MNV by 2.5 log10 after 30 seconds”, specifically the “2.5 log10” (from the CDC link)?
    Does this mean “… MNV by ~300 after …”. i.e 10^2.5
    Is this a broadly used way of expressing numbers? I’ve never seen it before, and the intertoobz haven’t been very helpful.

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  5. Maggie says:

    Restaurant worker here. If anyone, front of the house or back of the house, is sick and misses work, there is no pay. Most of the cooks and bus boys make so little money, they cannot afford to take time off. As it is, most uwork two jobs to make ends meet.

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