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Is your office quietly becoming a breeding ground for Norovirus?

by , 05 November 2013
Recently, a subscriber wrote in to the Health and Safety Advisor's help desk with the following scenario: 'Last year, my office was hit by the sweeping curse of the 'tummy bug'. Characterised by stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting, fever and pain, it took down the entire sales department, one by one. My doctor said it's caused by the Norovirus, the tummy bug - or gastroenteritis and that it's extremely contagious. He also told me he sees it most often at this time of year, since the weather is warmer - and the virus thrives in higher temperatures. How can I keep my office safe from this happening again?'

Warning: Your office may be the next to be hit by this virus. And if so, your business will suffer the negative consequences of employee absenteeism, loss of productivity, and the subsequent loss in profits.

So how do you control the spread of the Norovirus in your office? We asked the health and safety experts for the low down.

Follow these three steps to keep the Norovirus at bay
1.       Make sure your bathrooms are equipped with plenty of anti-bacterial soap: If employees can't wash their hands regularly, you're not doing enough to stop the bug in its tracks. You see, the virus is transmitted through oral contact with bodily fluids (most especially faeces). Which means the most effective way to prevent its spread is through regular hand-washing.

2.       Make sure your bathrooms and office kitchen are cleaned daily with anti-bacterial cleaning aids: If your infected employees are using the bathroom to relieve themselves, then the bathroom is the most dangerous place in your building! Make sure your cleaning staff are equipped with protective gear (especially gloves), and are cleaning the toilets and all surfaces and door handles regularly during the day, especially if you do have a break-out of the bug.

3.       Remind your staff about the benefits of good hygiene: Call your employees together for a quick discussion about the virus, what causes it, and how they can prevent its spread. If they understand that they should wash their hands after every trip to the bathroom, as well as before every meal, they'll be more likely to avoid the bug.

If employees believe they are infected, it's imperative that stay away from work. We're not encouraging employees to call in sick at the slightest sign that they're not feeling 100%.  But keep in mind that this bug is pretty hardy – it only takes a few of the actual germs to infect an adult. Or the entire office...

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