Hand sanitisers may increase Norovirus risk

30th of August 2011
Hand sanitisers may increase Norovirus risk

The use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers may actually increase the risk of Norovirus outbreaks in healthcare settings, according to a study.

A survey of 161 long-term care facilities in the US revealed a link between the use of alcohol-based hand sanitisers for routine hand hygiene with an increased risk of Norovirus. Staff in facilities that experienced Norovirus outbreaks were six times more likely to use hand sanitisers either to the same degree or more frequently than they would use soap and water.

However, author of the study Dr David Blaney warns that the results may be misleading. "Care homes that reported preferential use of hand sanitisers might simply have more robust infection control programmes and therefore might be more likely to recognise and report Norovirus outbreaks," he said. "That being said, this study shows there's a need to look at more organism-specific outbreaks prospectively."

If the findings are confirmed, Blaney says there is a case for reconsidering changes to recommended policies regarding hand hygiene practices and placing increased emphasis on the need for hand washing with soap and water.

Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control in the US has released updated guidelines for the prevention of Norovirus and now recommends against using hand sanitisers as a substitute for soap and water.

According to the CDC: "Reducing any Norovirus present on hands is best accomplished by thorough hand washing with running water and plain or antiseptic soap. The efficacy of alcohol-based and other hand sanitisers against Norovirus remains controversial with mixed evidence depending on the product formulation and evaluation methodology."


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