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What to Do If Guests Get Sick in Shared Spaces

What to Do If Guests Get Sick in Shared Spaces

In August of 2014, 100 British tourists were staying at an Egyptian resort. Many of the visitors were concerned when a buffet was served that, according to their reports, had “dirty buffet food containers, utensils, and tables.” They still helped themselves to the buffet and according to one traveler, “On day four of our holiday, my husband started vomiting and later on that day, I also became very ill.”

In this case, the victims were diagnosed with shigella, a bug commonly associated with food poisoning and poor hygiene. And while shigella typically is the result of eating food or drink prepared by a contaminated person, when individuals with the disease vomit, it can be spread to a variety of surfaces. Vomit can become airborne and contaminate nearby surfaces such as tables, chairs, and floors. If someone touches these surfaces, directly or indirectly, they can contract the disease, especially if they do not wash their hands afterward. For this reason, it’s critical for hotel housekeepers and administrators to know the proper way to clean surfaces after a vomiting incident, whether it is caused by shigella or the most common culprit, norovirus.

Take a Team Approach
According to Edward Sharek, category manager of Facility-Employee Safety at DayMark Safety Systems, the first thing housekeepers and administrators should do in the event that a guest becomes sick is form a sickness cleanup team. “How to properly clean floors and surfaces after someone has become sick requires training, not only to prevent others from getting sick but the cleanup crew as well,” says Sharek.

Block Off the Area
After establishing a cleanup team, Sharek recommends hoteliers onsite do not allow anyone who is not part of the sickness cleanup team to clean the area. Until the team arrives, the only thing housekeepers or administrators should do is block off the area in as large of a radius as possible.

Have the Right Tools On-Hand
Have a spill cleanup kit handy, Sharek says. A proper spill cleanup kit will include such things as a disposable apron or gown, shoe covers, vinyl gloves (preferably three pairs), a mask/face shield, yellow trash bags (yellow is universally recognized as the color of “caution”), twist ties to secure trash bags, and disposable towels.

“While all these are important,” says Sharek, “what is most important is to have an absorbent floor pad approximately 12 inches by 12 inches. These are placed over the problem area and help keep fluids and pathogens from spreading on the floor or other surfaces.”

Cleanup Properly
The actual cleanup process has many steps, according to Sharek, and it is best that these steps be performed in the order outlined below.

  1. Put on all necessary personal protective gear (mentioned earlier).
  2. Cover the area with the spill pad.
  3. Spray disinfectant over the pad and surrounding areas until saturated; allow the disinfectant to “dwell” on surfaces as recommended by the manufacturer.
  4. Wipe up as much fluid as possible using the disinfectant-soaked spill pads and place soiled pads into the trash bag.
  5. Spray disinfectant over the area once again and wipe with a clean disposable towel, removing any remaining contaminants.
  6. Place disposable towel and protective clothing in the trash bag and close the bag with the tie.
  7. Discard the trash bag in an outside dumpster.

“It’s a good idea to change gloves during the cleanup process and wash hands,” adds Sharek. “But most importantly, hands must be washed thoroughly after the entire cleanup operation is completed.”

Hoteliers should also examine their complete cleaning, sanitation, and food preparation methods if there are any concerns like those expressed by guests at the Egyptian property referenced above. Administrators and housekeepers alike need to be mindful of the proper procedures necessary to make sure illness is not spread to others on the property.


About the Author
Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the professional cleaning and food service industries.

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