Soap and Water

Medscape (2/23, Zimmerman) reported that the use of “alcohol-based hand sanitizer (ABHS) in place of soap and water in nursing homes represents one of the greatest institutional risk factors for the spread of noroviruses,”

Noroviruses are a group of related, single-stranded RNA, viruses that cause acute stomach flu. The most common symptoms of this are diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pain.

Noroviruses spread from person to person, through contaminated food or water, and by touching contaminated surfaces. Norovirus is recognized as the leading cause of foodborne-disease outbreaks in the United States.

According to a study, the greatest risk was when “use of an ABHS was equal or more likely than soap and water.” Other high-risk ratios included the use of “part-time staff when the proportion of staff-to-patients was less than 1:2” and when the total staff-to-patient ratio was “less than the industry median.”

As we mentioned in a recent post, the best way to protect yourself when in the hospital is to require that medical staff wash their hands before they examine you.