Blame Australia: 3 new noroviruses cause gastro outbreaks across Australia

University of New South Wales scientists have identified three new strains of highly contagious norovirus that are responsible for a major new epidemic of viral gastroenteritis that has affected hundreds of thousands of Australians over winter.

keep-calm-and-blame-it-on-australiaScores of outbreaks of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea have occurred in Sydney, the Hunter region and the ACT, mainly in closed settings including aged care facilities, hospitals, childcare centres and cruise ships. More cases are expected.

In 2012, Professor Peter White and his team in the UNSW Faculty of Science discovered a new strain of norovirus named Sydney 2012, which caused a worldwide pandemic of gastro, including major outbreaks in Australia.

This strain dominated cases of norovirus infection until this year, when it declined from 75 per cent of cases to 18 per cent of cases in Australia. Similar trends have also been seen in the US and New Zealand.

“Now that Sydney 2012 has declined, three new strains of norovirus have emerged as a new major health concern,” says Professor White.

“They are responsible for a big increase in the number of gastro cases in Australia in the past two months, and this new spate of infection is likely to continue to cause a wave of sick leave that will affect businesses and schools already reeling from the effects of the current influenza epidemic.”

UNSW PhD student and molecular virologist Jennifer Lun worked out the genetic typing of the new viral strains.

“I was surprised to find three new viruses, rather than a single one,” she says.

“Two of the viruses are hybrid strains that evolved from the previous pandemic Sydney 2012 strain, while the other new strain is likely to have come from Asia. It occurred to me immediately that there was a potential for them to cause an increase in outbreaks this winter, because people have not been exposed to them before.”

norovirus-2Each year, norovirus infects about two million Australians and kills about 220,000 people worldwide. The nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea usually last for two to three days.

“Norovirus is highly infectious and can spread through aerosol particles when people vomit,” says Professor White, of the UNSW School of Biotechnology and Molecular Sciences.

“During the past 20 years there have been six global epidemics of norovirus, in 1996, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2012. Only time will tell how widely these three new strains will spread.”

The research on the new strains was carried out in collaboration with researchers at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Westmead Hospital, Canberra Hospital, the NSW Public Health Unit and medical testing service Douglass Hanly Moir.

Professor White established the Australian and New Zealand Norovirus Surveillance Network of testing laboratories in 2006, which has links with two similar organisations in Europe and North America to form a global surveillance network.

Probe launched after second ill pensioner dies after Scots staff send her on 450 mile taxi ride home

As Scotland grapples with 150 children sick from Norovirus at two schools, it has emerged that a second ill pensioner has died after being sent home hundreds of miles in a taxi from a Scottish hotel.

norovirus-elderly-womanThe Herald Scotland reports the Loch Achray Hotel in Callander, Stirlingshire, sent ill 79-year-old Norma Francis home on a 350-mile taxi journey to her home in Gnosall, Stafford, after showing symptoms of gastric illness. 

Norma fell unconscious during the journey and later died in hospital after paramedics were unable to waken her. 

Three weeks after Norma died on April 6, the hotel sent guest Carol Whymark, 70, and her husband, 73, home to Suffolk 450 miles in a taxi after it was suspected she was suffering from norovirus. 

The pensioner died of a heart attack in hospital the next day. 

Her daughter Sharone says the family have instructed lawyers to investigate Carol’s stay at the hotel, booked through Lochs and Glens Holidays Limited. 
Sharone, 47, said: “I just think it is terrible that this could have happened once, let alone twice. It’s disgusting. 

“I’ve lost my mum, my dad lost his wife and my daughter her nanny. I’m disgusted and this needs investigating. 

“I’m still numb really. I still feel angry.” 

Carol, who was on a coach tour of Scotland, woke up feeling unwell at the hotel on April 28. 

Her daughter said staff told husband Desmond that his wife had norovirus and offered him rubber gloves to clean the room and left food and water outside. 

The family claim no appropriate medical advice was given and the hotel simply offered a taxi home. 

A post mortem revealed she did not have norovirus in her system and died of the heart attack. 

Sharone said: “Mum said she didn’t feel 100 per cent – but there was no evidence of vomiting or loose stools. There was no medical attention at all. 

“They said to my dad there was a 90 per cent chance he will catch the virus. 

“Half an hour later they said she was fit to travel nine hours home. It’s so wrong. 
“When they came and said they would pay for a taxi, she said, ‘Yes, let’s go home’. 

“The poor lady who passed away three weeks before, she actually did have norovirus. 

“But my mum didn’t have it. 

“The hotel thought she had norovirus because the other lady did. 

32,000 hospitalized over contaminated water in Turkey

The number of people hospitalized due to contaminated water in the Elbistan district of the Mediterranean province of Kahramanmaraş has risen from 5,000 to some 32,000, while a group of officials announced a norovirus infection in caisson wells within the water supply network from Ceyhan River was the cause of the contamination. 

norovirus-2“We needed to find what the microorganism causing diarrhea was and the source of it. In light of the samples we took from the patients, we determined that what caused their diarrhea was a norovirus, which means bacteria and viruses together,” Health Ministry Health Services Department General Manager İrfan Şencan told journalists at a press briefing on Aug. 29, adding it can spread very easily.

“It’s a type of virus that can cause stomach ache, nausea, vomiting, fever and diarrhea. It can spread very easily and affects a lot of people. I need to stress that in addition to the infection occurring through drinking water directly, one can be infected through several other ways including kissing, washing hands, preparing meals, shaking hands and so on,” he added. 

Şencan noted there was no issue concerning the chemical quality of the water.

 

Minneapolis sees rise in foodborne illness from nororvirus, Vibrio in oysters

When I think Minnesota, I think raw oysters.

No, I never think that about anywhere.

raw.oysters.minnJeremy Olson of the Star Tribune reports that city health inspectors in Minneapolis are investigating a summer increase in foodborne illnesses related to norovirus and Vibrio, a bacteria found in raw oysters.

The increases were highlighted in the city’s “food establishment” newsletter, released Thursday.

“The reason for the spike in norovirus outbreaks is not known,” the advisory stated. “The Vibrio outbreaks are due to higher concentrations of bacteria in some oyster beds during the summer.”

Cases of norovirus, a highly contagious bug that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, are not required to be reported to the Minnesota Department of Health, but the state agency has received reports of a slight uptick that is unusual for this time of year.

Over 100 sickened at Kansas dinner theatre in Jan.

Beginning with the Jan. 17, 2016 performance at the Overland Park New Theatre dinner theatre, people began complaining of illness. Hundreds of people say they got sick after attending a Johnson County dinner theater in January. Now months later, Abby Eden of FOX 4 has obtained the final report detailing the investigation by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment into what happened.

New-Theater-Restaurant-in-Overland-Park-The report shows the norovirus could have been spread by employees who were already sick- and handling food like the bread, salad, and ranch dressing. The C. perfrigens was found to be associated with the poppyseed dressing and burnt ends- improper temperature settings may have led to that bacteria spreading.

However, the report doesn`t rule out the possibility that a patron brought in the norovirus and spread it through going through the buffet line.

Water cooler common source in Norovirus outbreak in China

Noroviruses are a common cause of acute gastroenteritis around the world; however, reports of outbreaks caused by GII.17 norovirus are rare. An outbreak caused by GII.17 norovirus in a senior high school in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, China is reported here.

WatercoolerAn epidemiological investigation, pathogen detection, and case–control study were performed. Epidemiological data combined with the epidemic curve indicated that this outbreak was a point source type initially, followed by secondary transmission. The first case was identified as most likely the source of the outbreak.

Risk analysis showed exposure to patients and sharing a communal water cooler to be associated with the spread of infection. Sequence analysis of GII-positive samples confirmed that the norovirus GII.17 variant was the etiological agent of this outbreak.

An acute gastroenteritis outbreak caused by GII.17 norovirus in Jiangsu Province, China

Chao Shi1, Wei-Hong Feng1, Ping Shi1, Jing Ai, Hong-Xia Guan, Dan Sha, Qian Geng, Jun Mei, Shan-hui Chen, Yong Xiao, Yan-Hua Qian

1Chao Shi, Ping Shi, and Wei-Hong Feng contributed equally to this study.

International Journal of Infectious Diseases, August 2016, Volume 49, Pages 30-32, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2016.05.004

http://www.ijidonline.com/article/S1201-9712(16)31047-5/fulltext

‘It came with them’ Republican convention staffers test positive for Norovirus

Nearly a dozen Republican staffers who are in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention have tested positive for norovirus, public health officials said Wednesday.

norovirusOhio public health officials confirmed reports from Tuesday that a group of staffers from the California delegation had contracted the virus, according to Stat News.

Those infected with the norovirus were part of the advance team for the California delegation, leading to concerns that the bug may spread.

“It came with them,” Erie County Health Commissioner Peter Schade told Stat News.

But public health officials have taken precautions by quarantining those who were believed to be infected, while warning others who may feel under the weather to stay in their hotels.

Norovirus, you don’t want it: RNC edition

My neighbor told me over the weekend that he’s done with social media until the U.S. election is over, he said that the polarized debates on his Facebook timeline were making him sick.

Sorta like the at least 11 RNC attendees who have, according to Stat News, acquired some norovirus over the past couple of days.

A handful of Republican staff members in Cleveland for the GOP convention were reported to be suffering Tuesday from a possible norovirus infection.

And if there are a few people with norovirus, it’s likely there will be more.10849902_719581291471357_3442145704847569295_n1-300x3001-300x300

As many as 11 members of the California delegation’s advance team are showing symptoms that are consistent with the norovirus, according to Peter Schade, the Erie County health commissioner, who is investigating the outbreak. They are staying at a hotel in Sandusky, Ohio, about an hour from Cleveland.

“We’ve got about 11 who have been sick over the last few days, and we’ve been out there every day and working with them to eliminate the spread [between] the resort and the delegation from California,” Schade said.

The health department is running tests to confirm whether the Republican staff members have norovirus.

Jim Brulte, the California delegation chairman, told STAT in an email that the trouble started when one of the staff members who arrived ahead of the delegation came down with a virus and infected her husband.

Handwashing, excluding the ill folks from the festivities and cleaning and sanitizing with chlorine-based compounds are best management practices.

People say they go to work, even when they shouldn’t

Rae Ellen Bichell of NPR writes that a majority of working adults say they still go to work when they have a cold or the flu. There are some jobs where doing that can have a big effect on health.

sea-sickness1At least half of people who work in very public places, like hospitals and restaurants, report going to work when they have a cold or the flu. Those were among the findings of a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

They are some of the last people you’d want to go to work sick, because they tend to have a lot of contact with people. And that helps spread disease.

“It’s one of the biggest food safety problems that there is, and we’ve known about it forever,” says Kirk Smith, who oversees foodborne outbreak investigations with the Minnesota Department of Health. But he says it’s really hard to get people to stop doing it.

When it comes to food handling, there’s one illness that’s particularly concerning: norovirus. “It is by far the most common cause of foodborne illness,” says Smith. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is responsible for 35 percent of them.

That’s because there are billions of virus particles per gram in stool and vomit. It only takes about 20 of those to get someone sick. And norovirus can hitchhike from surface to surface. It takes a high concentration of bleach to kill it.

“And so it just takes microcontamination of your hands, if you don’t do a perfect job washing, to be able to contaminate food with enough of the virus to infect lots and lots of people,” says Smith.

The same virus has plagued restaurant customers across the country. Last winter, 140 people — including much of the Boston College basketball team — got sick from eating at a Chipotle in Boston where one person had gone to work sick.

“It’s definitely the norm to go into work sick. That’s what I and most of my co-workers usually do,” says Anthony Peeples. He used to work at an Olive Garden restaurant. Now he’s a bartender at a casino in Michigan City, Ind.

The CDC has found that 1 in 5 food service workers has reported working while sick with vomiting and diarrhea.

Depends if you’re in the capital region or NSW: Norovirus outbreak in Australia

Alexandra Back of the Canberra Times reports an isolation ward has been set up at Calvary Hospital and visitors are being discouraged as the hospital works to contain a gastro outbreak.

norovirus-2An intensive care patient was diagnosed with the highly contagious norovirus – that causes fever, cramping, vomiting and diarrhea – Friday last week.

Calvary Hospital chief executive Karen Edwards said there were 16 suspected cases of the virus and the patients were isolated.

The general medical ward 5W has been closed to new admissions and staff movement across the hospital was being restricted.

But one man said his wife, who had a caesarean birth under general anaesthetic two days ago, was rushed out on Thursday, a day early. He was concerned because she was still in a lot of pain.

“My concern is the continuance of care. The whole thing is, there were no options provided, in essence, we’re told they are getting everyone out by 11.30.”

Neighboring NSW Health issued a public health warning after an above average number of people went to emergency with gastro.

ACT Health said viral gastro cases weren’t notifiable in the capital, but the government had not seen a recent spike in cases.