Public Health England announced recentlythat norovirus cases are increasing, as is common at this time of year. However, there is much that can be done to avoid the spread of the virus, especially in the case of food workers.

Norovirus is one of the leading causes of illness from contaminated food. The virus can easily contaminate food because it is very tiny and spreads easily. It only takes a very small amount of virus to make someone sick.

Food can get contaminated with norovirus when:

  • infected people who have faeces or vomit particles on their hands touch food

  • food is placed on counters or surfaces that have infectious stool or vomit particles on them

  • tiny drops of vomit from an infected person spray through the air and land on the food.

Foods can also be contaminated at their source, eg in fruit and vegetables that are contaminated in the field.

People ill with norovirus can shed billions of norovirus particles, with workers at their most contagious when sick with norovirus illness, and during the first few days after recovery.

The norovirus can and has led to outbreaks in nursing homes, hospitals, restaurants, cruise ships and schools.

Workers should therefore:

  • practice proper food hygiene

  • wash fruits and vegetables

  • cook seafood thoroughly

  • stay home when they are sick and for at least 48 hours after symptoms stop

  • clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces using bleach or other disinfectants

  • wash contaminated laundry thoroughly.

Last reviewed 30 October 2019