Students and faculty at Duke University are getting a lesson in the importance of thorough hand washing as a result of several suspected norovirus infections on campus in the past week.
Dr. George Jackson, co-director of Employee Occupational Health and Wellness, was quoted in Duke Today as saying, “All students, faculty and staff are advised to practice effective hand hygiene to limit the spread of the virus. The best way to prevent infection is by washing hands with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers may not be effective against noroviruses.”
The advisory is in contrast to a campaign by university housekeeping directors to encourage the use of instant hand sanitizers to save water. The North Carolina Division of Public Health recently issued an advisory noting an increase in norovirus infections widely throughout the state.
Highly contagious noroviruses are easily transmitted by touching a contaminated surface as well as by direct contact or by eating food or drinking liquids that have been contaminated with the virus. Noroviruses are notoriously difficult to kill with normal cleaning and disinfecting procedures. Surfaces that have been contaminated with stool or vomit should be cleaned immediately and disinfected with a freshly prepared diluted bleach solution or a bleach-based household cleaner.
Norovirus symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramping. Some may have fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. The symptoms can begin suddenly and last for one or two days in most people.