Outbreak News Today reports that French health authorities (Santé publique France) say since December 2019, 179 compulsory declarations (DO) of collective food poisoning ( toxi-infection alimentaire collective-TIAC) suspected of being linked to the consumption of raw shellfish, mainly oysters.
The reports come from the majority of regions in mainland France.
Seventy-seven percent of cases occurred since December 23, with the peak of patients being observed around December 25-27.
The symptoms, mainly diarrhea and vomiting, as well as the incubation times, are compatible with infections with norovirus or other enteric viruses. Stool tests performed to date by the National Reference Center for Gastroenteritis Viruses have confirmed the presence of norovirus and other enteric viruses.
The number of TIAC suspected of being linked to the consumption of raw shellfish is significantly higher than in previous years. Each year between 25 and 120 TIAC suspected of being linked to the consumption of shellfish are reported to Public Health France, of which between 4 and 30 occurred during the December-January periods.
Jessica Grose of The New York Times writes that “two days before my 37th birthday, I received the following bone-chilling email from my daughter’s elementary school: “Dear Families, We wanted to inform you that we had an unusually high number of students across all grades suffering from symptoms of a stomach bug.”
One day before my 37th birthday, I had a parent-teacher conference in that building of horrors.
You know where this is going: I spent my birthday eve in the local E.R., getting fluids and the anti-nausea medication Zofran pumped into my veins. “You need to break the barf cycle,” the attending doctor said.
The ailment sweeping my kid’s school and my intestines was norovirus, a highly contagious stomach bug that causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. There are multiple strains of norovirus, so you can catch it more than once in a season — and it’s basically hanging around all winter, from November to April.
Human norovirus (HuNoV) is a foremost cause of domestically acquired foodborne acute gastroenteritis and outbreaks. Despite industrial efforts to control HuNoV contamination of foods, its prevalence in foodstuffs at retail is significant. HuNoV infections are often associated with the consumption of contaminated produce, including ready-to-eat (RTE) salads.
Decontamination of produce by washing with disinfectants is a consumer habit which could significantly contribute to mitigate the risk of infection. The aim of our study was to measure the effectiveness of chemical sanitizers in inactivating genogroup I and II HuNoV strains on mixed salads using a propidium monoazide (PMAxx)-viability RTqPCR assay. Addition of sodium hypochlorite, peracetic acid, or chlorine dioxide significantly enhanced viral removal as compared with water alone. Peracetic acid provided the highest effectiveness, with log10 reductions on virus levels of 3.66 ± 0.40 and 3.33 ± 0.19 for genogroup I and II, respectively. Chlorine dioxide showed lower disinfection efficiency.
Our results provide information useful to the food industry and final consumers for improving the microbiological safety of fresh products in relation to foodborne viruses.
Effectiveness of consumers washing with sanitizers to reduce human norovirus on mixed salad
Eduard Anfruns-Estrada, Marilisa Bottaro, Rosa Pinto, Susana Guix, Albert Bosch
The case study is part of a wider project done by ECDC within the context of EU Decision 1082/2013/EU on serious cross-border threats to health. It is part of a multi-country case study project that investigates the synergies between communities affected by serious public health threats and the institutions (both health- and non-health-related) mandated to prepare for and respond to them.
The premise for the project is that affected communities are increasingly recognised as key resources in public health emergencies, and that the concerns and experiences of ordinary people should be harnessed as an important part of the response.
Community engagement and institutional collaboration in Iceland during a norovirus outbreak at an outdoor/scout centre (10-15 August 2017)
CBS News reports the rapid spread of a stomach virus through the Greater Albany School District has forced the closure of all schools in the district for the rest of the week. The closure comes days after a Colorado school district of about 22,000 students was forced to close after a similar viral outbreak tore through its 46 schools.
CBS Portland affiliate KOIN-TV reported the school district in Linn County, Oregon, was trying to contain the spread of the virus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea.
The district disinfected buildings over the weekend, but kept Periwinkle Elementary School closed Monday after consulting with the Linn County Health Department. On Monday evening, the Greater Albany district said on Facebook that after consulting with state and county health officials — and noting a jump in absences in their other schools — that all schools would close and reopen December 2.
Officials said cleaning teams will continue to disinfect and sanitize throughout the closure.
In Colorado, hundreds of students were sickened by symptoms similar to those of norovirus, a highly-contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. After the illness jumped quickly from school to school, officials were forced to take the unusual step of closing all 46.
“When we have 20 kids actively vomiting in a school that already has 17% gone we know that we’ve got a problem. We have to stop the exposure,” said Tanya Marvin, the head of nursing for the school district.
Sydney woman Lesley Thompson was enthusiastic about her journey across the heart of Australia when she stepped onto the Indian Pacific train with her sister Pam last month.
But in less than 24 hours the elderly woman was being rushed to hospital in an ambulance, struck down with a “vile” case of gastro that began to cause trouble with her heart.
Carrie Fellner of the Sydney Morning Herald reports Ms Thompson is one of at least 100 passengers to have fallen ill in a mass outbreak of norovirus, a form of gastroenteritis, on the Indian Pacific train in recent weeks.
The 80-year-old, from Greenwich on Sydney’s north shore, was relieved she was in good health with no pre-existing heart problems, and has been able to recover from her ordeal.
The Indian Pacific train travels from Sydney to Perth via Adelaide, crossing the Nullarbor Plain on its 4352-kilometre journey.
More than 100 people have become ill with gastro after travelling on the Indian Pacific train.
The first case linked to the train was recorded on September 8 and the latest case was identified on Monday September 30.
Ms Thompson has been unable to get through to health authorities and does not know if they have counted her among the two passengers reported as requiring hospitalisation.
She boarded the train on September 11 in Sydney and fell ill during a stopover in the South Australian town of Hahndorf the following day.
“I was throwing up everywhere,” she said. “It was vile.”
Ms Thompson is yet to receive a refund on the ticket cost of nearly $10,000, and was initially told she had to pay a “curtailment fee” for abandoning the train during the stopover.
A spokesperson for Great Southern Rail, which operates the service, said it was still working through compensation options for affected guests on a case-by-case basis.
The Indian Pacific remains in operation but SA Health said it had the power to take the train off the tracks if the situation escalates.
“The health and wellbeing of guests is paramount and we have acted quickly to respond to this situation,” a spokesperson said.
This is the CIDRAP summary of the latest CDC number crunching on microorganisms that lead to barfing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late last week released a summary of foodborne illnesses in 2017 based on an annual analysis of data from the Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System, and norovirus was the most common pathogen reported, responsible for 46% of illnesses. Salmonella and Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli were also linked to a substantial number of outbreaks.
In 2017, the CDC tracked 841 foodborne outbreaks, which included 14,481 illnesses, 827 hospitalizations, 20 deaths, and 14 food product recalls. A single etiologic agent was confirmed in 395 outbreaks (47%), which are defined as two or more related cases.
Tainted seafood and poultry were tied with causing the most outbreaks, with mollusks (41 outbreaks), fish (37), and chicken (23) the specific food items most often implicated. The most outbreak-associated illnesses were from turkey (609 illnesses), fruits (521), and chicken (487), the CDC said.
California had the most outbreaks (107), followed by Ohio (69), and Washington state (67).
As in past years, restaurants with sit-down dining were the most commonly reported locations for food preparation associated with outbreaks (366).
Parents at Norwich Primary Academy say an outbreak of the vomiting bug at the end of last week caused dozens of children to fall ill.
One parent claimed almost a quarter of the school’s 350 pupils were absent at the end of last week and questioned why the school had not been closed.
Norwich Primary Academy did not confirm or deny whether any cases of norovirus has been reported, saying it could not comment on individual cases, but added that it took pupil health seriously and followed all relevant health protection guidelines.
One parent, whose children are in year one and year three at Norwich Primary Academy, said a group social media chat for parents at the school has reportedly been awash with talk of children and other family members falling victim to sickness and diarrhea.
“It is speculation from the teachers at the moment,” she said.
“There were 18 children in a year one class out of 30 on Friday morning and 10 on Friday afternoon. The children are dropping like flies.”
Rebecca Trager of Chemistry World reports U.S. researchers have created a handheld detection system that is sensitive enough to catch just a few particles of norovirus.
University of Arizona biomedical engineer Jeong-Yeol Yoon and his team have created a highly sensitive portable detection system capable of spotting norovirus at levels that can make people sick. The work was presented the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in San Diego, California on 27 August.
As few as 10 norovirus particles can cause vomiting and diarrhoea in humans and the virus is extremely contagious so early detection is vital to prevent outbreaks. However, the virus does not grow in laboratory cultures and current detection methods rely on specialised and time-consuming PCR (polymerase chain reaction) techniques.
Yoon’s research team previously developed a smartphone-based device that measured light-scattering from norovirus-bound polystyrene beads in a paper microfluidic chip. It has now improved the device’s detection limit by changing to a fluorescence-based method.
‘I looked at Amazon.com and saw that they sell a lot of these smartphone attachments – smartphone microscope attachments – that turn your phone turns into a microscope, and by adding a couple of other components, I could convert the smartphone-based microscope into a fluorescence microscope,’ Yoon explains.
The setup uses a microscope accessory with a separate light source and two optical filters. He and colleagues also designed a 3D printed case to house the components.
To test a sample, it is first added to the paper microfluidic chip, followed by a suspension of fluorescent beads labelled with norovirus antibodies. After three to five minutes, the antibodies bind to any norovirus particles in the sample, creating aggregates of the fluorescent beads that spread out along the channels of the chip. The resulting increase in fluorescence intensity around each norovirus particle can be detected by taking a picture of the chip with the smartphone’s camera.
An app that the team has also developed then analyses the picture to calculate the sample’s norovirus concentration from the pixel count in the image. So far, the lowest detection limit corresponded to about 5 or 6 norovirus particles per sample, Yoon says. He estimates that the material costs of this system, aside from the cell phone and app development costs, are about $200.