Tag Archives: steam

Norovirus: how to stop repeat outbreaks before they start

Norovirus misery
Being sick is bad enough, even worse with a norovirus repeat, over and over again. Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

Norovirus, ugh! Not only does it feel like the end of the world – seems nothing can stop the dreaded repeat outbreak.

Repeat, repeat and repeat – it boomerangs back and back again. Highly contagious, seriously pernicious – despite the most meticulous deep clean procedures.

Which either means it really IS impossible to beat. Or whatever we’re doing to stop it simply isn’t good enough.

Harsh truth when a thorough job usually involves ripping the place apart. Head-blowing bleach stink with hard scrubbing everywhere for hours – and STILL the bug comes back again.

Know your enemy

Yes, but norovirus is no ordinary stomach bug. It’s the ultimate survivor.

For a start, it only takes ten microscopic particles of the virus to start an infection. Compare that with flu, at maybe between ten and forty times that – and you’re looking at a much more vicious enemy.

Vicious is right.

It’s also why norovirus is so violent – crippling cramps, projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhoea.

Exactly right to spread itself as far and wide as possible – the widest opportunity to start new infections with any newcomers who unsuspectingly chance along.

Plus of course, it might only infect on contact – but it DISPERSES through the air.

Well sure, each particle is barely 2 microns across – light enough to ride the air currents in any room for hours or days. Breathe in just ten of them through your mouth, swallow – and chances are you’ll be hanging onto the loo in utter misery, just 12 hours from now.

And those horrid upchucks?

Yes gruesome, but think of how far they reach and spread.

Across the impact area on the furniture and floor, obviously. Exactly the right place to move in with mop and bucket. But how about underneath? Or behind?

And those are just the big gobs of stuff.

How about the individual particles swirling around – settling everywhere or still riding the breeze? Reach those with sponge or squeegee too?

Wipe down the surfaces, yes – but how about in the coils of power cables, or down the back of electronic equipment? How about the sheets of paper lying on the nearest table – the first thing to be removed by unthinking hands?

The floors get scrubbed. The walls too. Every surface is rubbed down within an inch of its life.

But seldom underneath. And seldom in those hard-to-reach places that nobody thinks about. Cracks, crevices – tiny places where a 2 micron particle might survive for weeks on end.

Which means deep clean or not – the infection never went away in the first place.

Start using the room again, and those norovirus particles are only too ready to come out and do their thing. Not gone. And certainly not forgotten. Repeat, repeat and repeat.

Not good enough

And anyhow, how effective is the stuff we’re using?

That bleach solution might be strong enough to rip your head off, but how does it stack up against a survivor like norovirus? A wipe with even a concentrated solution won’t crack it – to kill norovirus, bleach has to be in continuous contact for at least TWENTY minutes.

So even though a surface is treated, it still might not be safe.

Same thing with steam.

You can give yourself a nasty burn if your not careful. But to kill norovirus, even that kind of heat takes TWO minutes of constant contact or more to do the job. Like bacteria, viruses can survive in the frozen Antarctic, or live happily in a seething volcano. What’s a little steam bath, now and then?

And how are you applying it? With a waving hosepipe?

Well, yes. Because if you did apply superhot steam to everything continuously for two minutes, it would be sodden through and probably useless – shorted out or fused, if it’s anything electric.

And have you seen what bleach does to surfaces with prolonged contact? Shrivelled up or corroded very quickly.

Which puts us where? Hours of work down the drain and the bug still present. Repeat, repeat and repeat.

We think we’re safe, but norovirus is just biding its time. Ready for its repeat performance, just when you thought it was safe.

Money, money, money – not just health

Don’t worry, we’re not the only ones. How about an expensive investment like a cruise ship? Hundreds of passengers, sick and ready to sue.

Thousands down the drain and STILL norovirus comes back – like Fred Olsen Line’s Balmoral, struck down SIX times since 2009.

Or Holland America Line’s Caribbean cruise liner Amsterdam – having to cancel four trips in succession because of repeat outbreaks in 1982.   It got so bad, the ship had to be taken out of service to ensure thorough decontamination – and new passengers were even warned before embarking that the ship had previously had problems it couldn’t get rid of.

All of which says, if you want to get rid of norovirus, there’s no pussy-footing around.

Conventional cleaning just won’t work. And that’s all it is anyway – cleaning.

It’s not actually sterilising – making germs dead, so they can’t infect anything.

Repeat, repeat and repeat

The job’s not done and norovirus is still lurking.

OK, so get unconventional.

Think killing germs, not just cleaning.

Especially getting to the airborne stuff that never gets treated anyway. Yet 80% of pretty well every room we live in is nothing else!

You can throw technology at it, like ultraviolet radiation – that will at least do something.

But there’s a downside to that too. Light can’t go round corners, unless you have lots of mirrors. So blitzing a room with UV means either a lot of exposures in different positions – or manhandling great unwieldy pieces of shiny metal (glass would break).

Oh and yes – a variation on the contact time. The potency of UV as a germ-killer falls off rapidly with distance from the light source. Unless everything’s within about ten feet, those pesky norovirus particles won’t be cashing in their chips just yet.

Which leaves fogging.

Like the insect control people do when they fumigate a house – pump a load of germ-killer into the air and let it swirl around. The usual choice is hydrogen peroxide, an effective germ killer and less toxic than most alternatives.

But also fraught with a few problems.

Just getting it into the air doesn’t make it reach behind, underneath or on top of things. There’s nothing to push it into cracks or crevices either.

It will kill the germs alright, norovirus included. But without effective dispersal to reach everywhere, there’s still nothing to prevent repeat outbreaks.

And just consider fogging the place up with a vapour. Lots of moisture to play havoc with sensitive equipment and paper. Enough that a second machine is necessary alongside the fogging one – to dry everything out after the vapour has done its work.

Plus there’s the old question of contact time. As a vapour the stuff is heavier than air, so doesn’t stay airborne long.

To compensate, a strong solution is necessary – 32%, about the maximum permissible without being totally toxic. Yes it kills, but it’s also pretty corrosive – not good on plastics or sensitive surfaces – and certainly not good for computers.

So what, repeat norovirus outbreaks are inevitable – even with technology?

The RIGHT technology

Depends on the technology.

Because it IS possible to mist up the place with a safe solution of just 6% hydrogen peroxide. And have it spread everywhere by ionising it – so it tries to escape from itself, yet reaches out and clamps hold of germs as it does so.

Contact time is less than 2 minutes – because ionising changes the stuff into a plasma, which multiplies its oxidising power several times over. Forty minutes tops, and the whole place is sterile – no germs anywhere, not even norovirus – repeat or no repeat.

OK, yes, this a blatant plug. But if you’re as sick of one norovirus repeat after another as we are, you’ll be glad to know there’s a system that works.

And not just on norovirus either – on everything.

Your way of giving germs the same dirty treatment they give you.

About this blog

Back Off, Bacteria! is the blog of Hyper Hygiene Ltd, supplier of what we’re convinced is the most effective health protection system in the world. A fully mobile, all-automatic Hypersteriliser machine mists up workplaces with ionised hydrogen peroxide, spreading everywhere and eliminating all bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Hypersteriliser units are supplied to businesses and institutions across the UK, notably the haematology and other critical units at Salford Royal Hospital, Greater Manchester; Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospital; South Warwickshire Hospital; Coventry & Warwickshire Hospital; and Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead.

The Halo Hypersteriliser system achieves 6-log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% of germs destroyed. It is the only EPA-registered dry mist fogging system – EPA No 84526-6. It is also EU Biocide Article 95 Compliant.

Reference links checked and working at time of posting.  However, some URLs may be taken down or re-sited later. If your link goes nowhere or you get an Error 404 message, please accept our apologies.

How to get a sure-fire norovirus ALL CLEAR

Chef highsigns OK
No norovirus, or any other germs either – they’re ALL gone – the difference between clean and safe

Dead dodgy, norovirus is. Keeps coming back whatever you do. So getting an All Clear is a mission.

It doesn’t have to be.

Once the first level clean up is done, it should be quick and easy.

The trick is to be thorough.

Norovirus is adept at spreading itself as wide as possible to secure its survival.

Microscopically safe – or not at all

Getting rid of it has to be equally thorough. Not just treating surface areas, but everywhere.

Right there is why so many clean-ups fail.

If things look fresh and scrubbed, we think they are. But norovirus is a germ not even 2 microns across – a ten thousandth the width of a human hair. Against threats that small, judging by appearance is useless.

So is thinking that ordinary rubbing and scrubbing will do the job.

Yes, it’s necessary to get everything disinfected and clean.

Remember how violent norovirus is though? How it makes people double up in pain before convulsing with puke? Projectile vomiting, that’s called – one of the many ways norovirus spreads itself.

So tiny – and so forcibly ejected – it rides the air maybe 100 feet from where it started. Swirling on the smallest drafts or swish of movement, it’s carried even further- lighter than the air molecules around it. Sometimes staying airborne, sometimes settling as far away as it can get, working its way into the most microscopic cracks and crevices, determined to survive.

The ultimate survivor

And survive it does. Inside our bodies for as long as two weeks after we’ve started feeling better.  And outside our bodies for even longer.

Which means, miss a bit when cleaning – and norovirus comes roaring back just as everybody thinks it’s all clear. On top of which, it’s extremely potent – which why the National Geographic calls it “puked perfection“. Only 10 particles are enough to infect anyone, versus 4 times that for most other pathogens.

So miss just the remotest area – and you’re going to get it!

OK, so getting rid of it needs something with the same kind of spread-everywhere dispersal of norovirus itself – and that kills quickly. Something that reaches the outer limits – plus into all the nooks and crannies – without losing firepower in doing so.

Which right away rules out bleach. Sure, it’s potent enough to do the job – but you have to dilute it first – otherwise, it’s so strong it’ll do YOU damage. Say 10 tablespoons to a gallon of water is usual – that’s barely 6%. And to work at that strength, it has to be in contact for 30 minutes or more – if you can somehow squeeze it into all of those tiny cracks.

It rules out steam too. To be effective, steam has to be in contact for at least 2 minutes  at 121⁰C – not good with sensitive equipment or electrics – and soaking everything around it in the process. And germs LIKE warm damp.

Gone in 30 seconds

But 6% is exactly right for another high-powered germ-destroyer – ionised hydrogen peroxide (iHP). Deliver it in contact with any germ, and all it needs is around 30 seconds. The do-able ALL CLEAR .

6%? 30 seconds? We’re kidding, right?

Well, no – because it’s ionised. Forced to change its state from a gas to a plasma by a neat mobile dispensing unit called a Hypersteriliser.

Ionising hits three crucial objectives, bullseye.

One, it charges every particle of hydrogen peroxide, driving it to escape from itself. This forcibly disperses it, spreading in all directions and ramming itself hard against everything it comes across.

Two, only 6% in strength, its molecules are also tiny, equally able to ride the air. They force themselves into the same cracks as the norovirus – which can run, but it can’t hide.

Three, ionising turbo-boosts that 6% to hundreds of times the firepower. By releasing other antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet. Less than 30 seconds contact time? Prepare for some very dead norovirus, cells ripped apart, utterly destroyed.

Allow about 40 minutes for the hydrogen peroxide to disperse fully, eliminate ALL germs (not just norovirus) and safely revert to oxygen and a small amount of water, which evaporates. Now vent the room, open the windows, turn on the fan, or simply let everything dissipate.

Time for that ALL CLEAR. And that pesky norovirus is not coming back either.

ALL CLEAR, safe and secure.

Picture Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

How next generation hydrogen peroxide sterilising is better and safer than you think

Doctor thumbs up
Sterilising is way better than it was – a new generation of safe

Next generation is right – a long way from the days of steam.

Remember that?

Battling like crazy to get keep  the temperature high enough. Burned hands in spite of the gloves and paint flaking off everything that came near. And the impossible – maintaining enough contact time.  Plus of course, the dripping moisture everywhere afterwards.

Yes, so hydrogen peroxide was a big step forward back then. The old new generation. And the revolutionary idea of fogging the place up. Hydrogen peroxide vapour. Mind-blowing, but it worked. Even though it was a bit clunky.

First was the concentration level of hydrogen peroxide. Potent stuff, not to be played around with – like a 90% solution was used as rocket fuel. And the Royal Navy even used it to power  their “blonde” submarines back in the 1950s.

Back in the bad old days

OK, the 35% solution used for sterilising was a lot milder. But still strong enough to be a hazard to health. Handling it needed protective gear – and complete evacuation of the place being treated. Pretty disruptive in a busy hospital, shutting whole areas off for days at a time.

Impossible in business – sterilising offices, that sort of thing. A revolutionary thought, yes – but too hazardous, too bulky, and too lengthy a procedure.

Plus of course even at 35%, hydrogen peroxide was highly corrosive.

And still is today. Sensitive materials or equipment have to be removed first, or run the risk of damage. Surfaces bubble, melt or simply crumble away. Effective sterilising treatment, but truly a double-edged sword.

But the major problem as always, is the moisture.

At 35% concentration, any fogging solution can only become a vapour (HPV). Basically airborne water drops flavoured with peroxide. Even sprayed super-fine, it is heavier than air. Dispersal is limited to the pressure from the pump. And being basically water, it’s wet.

Fog a room up with that stuff and it will kill a lot of germs – very efficient with those it comes in contact with.

Wet, wet, wet

But very quickly, the place is laden with moisture. Like a Turkish bath, or a shower cubicle in a room with all the windows shut.

Water is everywhere – in the air, on all surfaces. Sometimes gathering in pools as the moisture-laden droplets sink to the floor after spraying. Not good for electrical connections or IT equipment. Or expensive diagnostic equipment, thinking of hospitals.

But that’s the price with HPV. Either live with the moisture, or add another machine to dry the place out. And hope like crazy nothing gets too damp before it does so.

Which is why more advanced hydrogen peroxide sterilising systems are truly next generation.

There is no moisture – or at least very little. And what there is evaporates before it can settle. Effectively a dry mist.

Concentration levels are next generation too. Only 6% versus 35%.

That makes it no more hazardous than the stuff at the chemist – also 6%. Still something to be handled with care, but not so potent. Enough to cause coughing or eyes to smart – not good for an asthma condition. But safe enough to be handled by untrained or casual personnel.

What about fire-power? Isn’t it too mild? Can it really kill germs? Doesn’t 6% pull its teeth?

Surprisingly, no. Which is what makes it new generation.

Goodbye hydrogen peroxide vapour (HPV). Hello IONISED hydrogen peroxide(iHP)

The ionising game-changer

Ionising is the game-changer.

First, it electrostatically charges the hydrogen peroxide particles, forcing them to repel each other. Not just sprayed out, but driven by power dispersal. The exiting mist spreads rapidly in all directions, trying to escape itself. Which shoves it through the air and hard up against all surfaces – pushing behind, under and through – forcing itself into every crack and crevice.

Second, that charge is opposite to the natural charge of pathogens. So the particles actively grab at bacteria, viruses and fungi – attracted like magnets. Clamped in a death grip, they are attacked by oxygen atoms and ripped to pieces.

Third, its not just hydrogen peroxide doing the job. Although only a 6% solution, ionising it changes its state – like ice becomes water, and water becomes steam. Except in this case the mist becomes a plasma – the fourth state of matter. This releases other antimicrobials – hydroxyl radicals, reactive oxygen species, reactive nitrogen species, ozone and ultraviolet.   It might be only 6%, but it’s turbo-charged more like 600%.

Fourth, because it’s a milder solution, the mist it makes is finer, lighter – and held easily aloft by its electrostatic charge. So fine, it’s almost not wet at all. So that when it dissipates to become oxygen and water after germs are killed, the water evaporates immediately. No moisture, no damp, no dripping threats to power cables or sensitive connections. And no drying necessary either.

Contact time? Two minutes at room temperature is all it needs to takeout most pathogens, like this lot here.   Stack that up against steam, which needs to maintain 120⁰C for 30 minutes. Or VHP, which needs around 10 minutes to be effective.

On top of which the whole job can be done by a roll-in and press-button mobile unit that does it all automatically. To a 6-Log Sterility Assurance Level – 99.9999% germ-free.

Like we said, next generation.

And definitely better and safer.

Picture Copyright: luismolinero / 123RF Stock Photo