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COMMENT: Stop unwanted guests



According to The Health Protection Agency more than one million people in the UK have contracted Norovirus since the summer, a figure 63% higher than this time last year.


Jason Burnett, technical director of Check Safety First, advises on how to protect against an unwanted guest.


Norovirus is a common cause of illness amongst holidaymakers, as it can spread quickly in close quarters such as hotels and cruise ships. The end of 2012 saw two well known luxury liners, the Queen Mary II and the Emerald Princess, each report an outbreak to the Centres for Disease Control.


Those in the travel and hospitality industry should increase their vigilance to detect the early signs of an outbreak. It only takes one incident to ruin the reputation of a leading hotel or cruise ship business and seriously affect future bookings.


Specific protocols are required to contain the spread of infection. Time is always critical in these situations and those that have prepared are going to see a much more controlled outcome than those just reacting without any real plan. It may be appropriate to request that holidaymakers complete a medical questionnaire at the point of check-in. Such responses (if answered truthfully) can help staff to identify and isolate those that could be infected before the virus spreads.


It is vital that all members of staff are regularly trained to deal with Norovirus outbreaks. The benefits of good hygiene need to be constantly reinforced and employees must be familiar with procedures put in place to ensure the wellbeing of guests, especially as there is such a high turnover of staff within the hospitality industry. Should an outbreak of Norovirus happen, employees should immediately know what is expected of them with responsibilities clearly outlined in their training.


Comprehensive room hygiene procedures are essential to ensure the thorough and constant sanitisation of surfaces. Particular attention needs to be taken to how cleaning chemicals are used so that they can be effective against bacteria and the more chemically resistant Norovirus. Bed linen and towels used by infected guests need to be segregated and washed properly to avoid cross contamination.


Control of guest contact with food should be increased, especially in all-inclusive buffet arrangements where the risk of viruses spreading is heightened. To limit the rise of contamination a hand washing culture should be reinforced amongst staff and alcohol gels should be easily accessible for guests before and after meals.


Unfortunately no hotels are immune from the risk of Norovirus, whether a basic bedsit or a five-star luxury accommodation. However, failure to implement the necessary processes to restrict the spread of any infection could result in negative publicity and costly legal battles. Money spent on putting the correct health and safety procedures into place are a worthwhile investment and could seriously reduce the risk of a damaged reputation.


On average, the dirtiest areas according to Check Safety First's scientific hygiene tests are:

  1. Plates, cutlery, tea making facilities
  2. Lighting controls
  3. Shower
  4. Toilet seat 


During an outbreak of Norovirus thorough cleaning of these areas will seriously reduce the risk of spread.


 1.     The kettle, cutlery and plates are the dirtiest facilities within the hotel room. Washing and replacing these facilities daily is essential for good hygiene.


2.     The TV remote in a hotel room is often forgotten.


3.     Lighting controls are used constantly and can really increase the spread of Norovirus if not cleaned regularly. 


6.     Guest laundry from those that are ill should be washed separately from uninfected guests. Temperatures should be higher for potentially contaminated laundry and they should not be mixed. 


7.     Different members of the housekeeping team should clean rooms where guests have been infected to those cleaning other guests' rooms


8.    Cleaning staff must make sure that the chemicals used are effective against Norovirus.

Monday, January 28, 2013



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