Multiple outbreaks of a novel norovirus GII.4 linked to an infected post-symptomatic food handler in NZ

Thornley et al write in the current issue of Epidemiology and Infection that multiple norovirus outbreaks following catered events in Auckland, New Zealand, in September 2010 were linked to the same catering company and investigated.

Retrospective cohort studies were undertaken with attendees of two events: 38 (24·1%) of 158 surveyed attendees developed norovirus-compatible illness. Attendees were at increased risk of illness if they had consumed food vomit(7)that had received manual preparation following cooking or that had been prepared within 45 h following end of symptoms in a food handler with prior gastroenteritis. All food handlers were tested for norovirus. A recombinant norovirus GII.e/GII.4 was detected in specimens from event attendees and the convalescent food handler. All catering company staff were tested; no asymptomatic norovirus carriers were detected.

This investigation improved the characterization of norovirus risk from post-symptomatic food handlers by narrowing the potential source of transmission to one individual. Food handlers with gastroenteritis should be excluded from the workplace for 45 h following resolution of symptoms.