Handwashing not hand sanitiser best way to stop gastro causing norovirus (28 April 2020)

The Food Safety Information Council today warned that good handwashing rather than using hand sanitiser was more effective in reducing the risk of catching the gastro causing norovirus.

Cathy Moir, Council Chair, said not all viruses are the same and although hand sanitisers are very effective against reducing the spread of COVID-19, it has little effect on the spread of norovirus. To effectively remove Norovirus you must wash your hands using soap, rubbing for 20 seconds and rinsing with running water then drying thoroughly.

‘Norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhoea. Cases occur all year round but they peak during winter possibly because that is when we tend to be in closer contact indoors allowing the virus to easily spread. Norovirus outbreaks are also common where people are in close living spaces, such as aged-care and child-care facilities, hospitals, cruise ships and community sporting events.

‘Norovirus is highly contagious.  A single infected person can easily spread it to many others, especially if they don’t wash their hands properly or prepare food or drink for others while they’re sick,’ Ms Moir concluded.

Following these 5 simple tips can greatly reduce the chance of you getting norovirus and spreading it to others:

  1. Wash your handsto prevent spreading norovirus – you will reduce your risk of getting norovirus (or spreading it to others if you already have it) by frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds and drying for another 20 seconds. The most important times to wash hands are after going to the toilet, vomiting, changing nappies, cleaning up vomit or faeces (poo) or attending to a sick person who has vomited, and before eating and preparing food. Don’t put your fingers in your mouth as they may have picked up a virus from an infected surface. If you have gastro don’t share hand towels with others; use paper towels or your own separate hand or kitchen towel.
  2. Don’t prepare food or drink for others if you have gastro – as you can easily make the rest of your household sick as well. Do not handle or prepare food for the family or household for at least 24 hours after symptoms have stopped. The safest thing to do is to arrange for someone else in your household to prepare food and drink. If no one else is available to cook then try to prepare food that needs minimal handling such as frozen food that can be cooked in the microwave – or treat yourself and your family to a take away that someone else can serve up.
  3. Stay at home if you or your child have gastro  – don’t go to work, visit your friends or loved ones in care facilities or send your child to school or childcare because norovirus can spread rapidly. Most schools and childcare have exclusion periods and will let you know when your child can return. Remember, that if you work in a food business, if you have gastro you must tell your supervisor and not handle food
  4. Don’t share plates, utensils or drink bottles with others – as this is an easy way to spread a virus.
  5. Take care when you can travel overseas again –  where sanitation is suspect drink bottled water and remember to use it for brushing your teeth and avoid food buffets, uncooked foods or peeled fruits and vegetables, and ice in drinks. Outbreaks of norovirus have occurred on cruise ships so wash your hands regularly and follow the instructions of the crew so your holiday isn’t spoiled.

For more information on norovirus see :

Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing

Better Health Channel

NSW Health

 Victoria Dept Health and Human Services

Watch this handwashing video