How a lack of hand washing sinks worsened norovirus outbreak

Food supplier washing hands with a Hygienius mobile sink

“Significant” operational deficiencies identified at a restaurant

Norovirus is often referred to – with good reason – as “the winter vomiting bug”. It is both highly contagious and deeply unpleasant. Not everyone understands that it cannot be controlled by using hand gels – they simply don’t work against it. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warns that in order to control its spread, you must “Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water. Alcohol hand gels don’t kill norovirus.”

A lack of hand washing facilities – and the will and knowledge of when and how to use them – have been named as significant factors in a disturbing outbreak of norovirus at an Illinois restaurant, according to a recent report on the Food Safety News website.

Although norovirus was clearly identified as the pathogen by a McHenry County Department of Health investigation, it was unable to ascertain the source of the outbreak. Nonetheless, a total of 173 people became ill, including 168 customers who experienced “vomiting and/or diarrhea after eating food from D.C. Cobb’s from Aug. 29, 2022, through Sept. 16, 2022”.

Five members of staff also became ill wrote Coral Beach who also indicated that it was likely that there were even more victims of the illness.

The thorough investigation looked at the risks presented by different foods, some of which were particularly associated with the outbreak. Significance was placed on the fact that the 5 members of staff who fell ill, returned to work within 24 hours of the illness subsiding, instead of the required minimum of 48 hours.

A Teal Super Stallette handwash unit in a farm shop
A Teal Super Stallette handwash unit in a farm shop

Lack of soap and water hand washing a huge factor

The Division of Environmental Health (DEH) identified “multiple breakdowns” in operational procedures, that “created an environment where norovirus could remain viable” says the article, which quotes 14 of the “most significant” deficiencies that were identified.

Tellingly, 9 or the 14 involved inadequate soap and water hand washing deficiencies.

They included:-

  • “Food preparation taking place where there was no access to a food service hand sink
  • “Approximately 30 percent of employees indicated that there is no monitoring of handwashing practices by management.”
  • “Multiple employees indicated that handwashing takes place either in the bathroom or at a sink that is not designated for hand washing purposes only.
  • “Failure to provide information regarding handwashing at appropriate stages in the food preparation/food handling processes during the product flow evaluations.”
  • “Improper hand washing procedures and washing of hands at sinks that are not designated as food service hand sinks.”

Sick employees among patient count in restaurant norovirus outbreak »

Teal mobile hand wash units – place them wherever they’re needed!

There are vehicle mounted, wall mounted, mains powered and free standing hand wash stations as well as mobile sinks for use with pre-heated hot water.

The Teal range of mobile sinks includes the MediWashHygienius and Hygienius ProWashBigSynkSuper StalletteTEALwashHandeman XtraCompact ClassicHandSpa, CliniWash – and now the new WashStand Xtra.