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Norovirus: step-by-step clean up of vomit and diarrhea

Norovirus is extremely contagious causing vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus is spread through person-to-person contact with an infected person or by touching infected surfaces such as door, toilet and faucet handles. Norovirus can survive on surfaces for two weeks. Cleaning and decontaminating surfaces is critical to remove and destroy the virus. 

Clean up

  1. Remove vomit and/or stool immediately!
    • Block-off and clear individuals and pets from the exposed area.
    • Put on personal protective equipment — disposable gloves, mask and plastic apron — to reduce your exposure to the virus.
    • Use disposable absorbent material (paper towels, kitty litter, baking soda or disposable cloths) to soak up visible vomit and/or stool.
    • Scrape up vomit and/or stool with paper plates or cardboard.
    • Dispose of soiled items/waste/gloves in a plastic trash bag.
    • Throw away food and packaging materials within a 25 foot circle of vomit.
  2. Wash hands. Put on clean gloves. Take disposable cloths soaked in soapy water and wipe up remaining vomit and/or stool. Rinse the surface well with clean cloths soaked in plain water.
  3. Wipe the area with dry paper towels and dispose of all soiled/items/waste in a plastic trash bag.
  4. Isolate the contaminated area for two hours as norovirus particles can remain in the air for two hours after an incident.
  5. DO NOT STOP HERE — your work is not done! The area needs to be decontaminated!

Decontaminate surfaces

To stop the spread of norovirus, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends using either chlorine unscented bleach or EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) registered antimicrobial products effective against norovirus. Product label must specify it is effective against norovirus available online or at restaurant supply stores. Examples include: Clorox© health care products and Comet Disinfecting Cleaner with Bleach.

  1. Prepare a chlorine bleach solution. Use fresh unscented bleach within six months of opening. Look at table below to determine the concentration needed to disinfect the surface.
  2. Clean and decontaminate soiled area and surrounding area in a 25-foot circle of infected area. The norovirus can be airborne, which means it can spread through the air. Decontamination could include multiple surfaces and areas.
  3. Air dry for a minimum of five minutes.

Wash your hands

  1. Remove personal protective equipment and dispose of in a plastic trash bag.
  2. Put on a new set of disposable gloves and transport bag to a secure trash container.
    • Wash hands! This is a critical step in preventing the spread of the norovirus.
    • Use soap and warm running water.
    • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds.
    • Dry with paper towels.
    • Turn off faucet with paper towel to prevent re-contamination.

When can I produce food?

Do not produce, package or distribute food for 72 hours after you or a household member no longer have symptoms of vomiting or diarrhea.

  • The individual is infectious for up to 72 hours after symptoms subside and can contaminate food, drinks and equipment simply by touch.
  • It can take 2 weeks to rid norovirus completely from the body. When you resume food production, wash hands well and often.
  • Do not touch ready-to-eat food or food contact surfaces with bare hands.
  • Use gloves, tongs or spatulas to create a barrier between your hands and the food.

Jena Heidmann, dietetic intern; Suzanne Driessen, Extension educator and Kathy Brandt, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2021

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