As I was beginning the listening section of an introductory French exam today, several students suddenly jumped up. Desks were screeching and I thought there must have been a cockroach or mouse in the room (both things have happened to me in the past at other universities). But no. A student in the front row was only vomiting on the floor and some of his neighbors happened to get hit. The students were all very cool and helpful – getting water and paper towels for the sick classmate. I sent the sick one home but he cleaned up most of his mess. I notified administration, sprayed the floor with some chemical spray, wiped up, and directed the students to another classroom. I went and washed my hands and facilities came within the next 15 minutes to mop the floors.
But what’s the protocol for handling other people’s puke? When I told Doug what happened he reminded me that if the student was sick with a virus like Noro, the germs could be aerosolized and make the rest of us ill. This particular student believed it was a problem with medicine, but to be safe … Washoe County Nevada Health Department suggests:
• Staff should wear disposable gloves and aprons when cleaning up after ill guests, especially when handling vomit, diarrhea, or other bodily wastes. It is recommended that persons who clean areas substantially contaminated by feces and/or vomitus wear masks because spattering or aerosols of infectious material might result in disease transmission. Use of cleaning cloths and other items used to clean toilets should only be used for that purpose and should not be used from room to room. Do not use these items to clean other surfaces. Effective virucides should be used in bathrooms and high hand-contact areas in guest rooms such as taps, faucets, door and drawer handles, door latches, toilet or bath rails, telephones, rails on balconies, light and lamp switches, thermostats, remote controls, curtain pulls and wands, covers on guest information books, alarm clock buttons, hair dryers, irons, and pens.
• Staff should promptly bag and clean soiled linens or dispose of them as infectious waste. Linens soiled with vomit or feces should be washed in a hot wash and dried at high temperature (drier temperature >170º F).
• When responding to a Public Vomiting Incident (PVI), the area within at least a 25-foot radius should be cleaned and disinfected using the above procedures.
• Staff should wash hands thoroughly using soap and water and then dry them thoroughly after completing the clean-up procedure and again after completing the disposal procedure.
A teacher named “Koko” blogged that when this happened in her classroom in China, she used dirt to cover the vomit, made sure it was dry, then swept, threw out the waste, and mopped afterwards. She made her students participate in the cleaning.