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01.12.2016 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2016 Open Access

BMC Infectious Diseases 1/2016

The role of hand hygiene in controlling norovirus spread in nursing homes

BMC Infectious Diseases > Ausgabe 1/2016
Rania Assab, Laura Temime



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, we assess various interventions to control norovirus spread in NHs.


We collected data on resident and staff characteristics and inter-human contacts in a French NH. Based on this data, we developed a stochastic compartmental model of norovirus transmission among the residents and staff of a 100-bed NH. Using this model, we 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 %, 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 % 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 % when assuming a 60 % 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.


This study shows that simple interventions can help control the spread of norovirus in NHs. 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.
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