The Role of Hand Hygiene in Controlling Norovirus Spread in Nursing Homes

Norovirus, the leading cause of gastroenteritis, causes higher morbidity and mortality in nursing homes (NHs) than in the community. Hence, implementing infection control measures is crucial. However, the evidence on the effectiveness of these measures in NH settings is lacking. Using an innovative data-driven modeling approach, Assab and Temime (2016) assess various interventions to control norovirus spread in NHs.

The researchers collected data on resident and staff characteristics and inter-human contacts in a French NH. Based on this data, they developed a stochastic compartmental model of norovirus transmission among the residents and staff of a 100-bed NH. Using this model, they investigated how the size of a 100-day norovirus outbreak changed following three interventions: increasing hand hygiene (HH) among the staff or residents and isolating symptomatic residents.

Assuming a baseline staff HH compliance rate of 15 percent, the model predicted on average 19 gastroenteritis cases over 100 days among the residents, which is consistent with published incidence data in NHs. Isolating symptomatic residents was highly effective, leading to an 88 percent reduction in the predicted number of cases. The number of expected cases could also be reduced significantly by increasing HH compliance among the staff; for instance, by 75 percent when assuming a 60 percent HH compliance rate. While there was a linear reduction in the predicted number of cases when HH practices among residents increased, the achieved impact was less important.

The authors say their study shows that simple interventions can help control the spread of norovirus in nursing homes. Modeling, which has seldom been used in these settings, may be a useful tool for decision makers to design optimal and cost-effective control strategies.

Reference: Assab R and Temime L. The role of hand hygiene in controlling norovirus spread in nursing homes. BMC Infectious Diseases. 201616:395