A new publication from Dr. Aron Hall of the CDC Viral Gastroenteritis Team has just been released in the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. The paper, “Epidemiology of Foodborne Norovirus Outbreaks, United States, 2001-2008,” is a comprehensive analysis of almost 3,000 cases of foodborne disease outbreaks linked to Norovirus. As Noroviruses are the leading cause of foodborne illness in the U.S., detailed analyses such as this provide an important understanding of how the virus spreads and in which foods. This helps guide strategies to reduce the occurrence of future outbreaks.
The study found that annually there are approximately 365 Norovirus outbreaks, resulting in thousands of illnesses and healthcare provider visits, over 100 hospitalizations, and 1 death. Leafy vegetables; fruits and nuts; and mollusks were the most commonly implicated foods. More than 50% of the outbreaks were caused by contact with infected food handlers. And infected food handlers may have contributed to up to 80% of cases. Most foods became contaminated during preparation and service.
This information should guide intervention strategies to target food workers and production of produce and shellfish; the CDC recommends that “food handlers should wash their hands, avoid bare-handed contact with ready-to-eat foods, and not work when they are sick.”
The full article is available on the CDC website.* Dr. Hall also discusses Norovirus outbreaks in a recent podcast, “Foodborne Norovirus Outbreaks,” presented by the CDC with the release of the publication.
*Please note that your ability to access the full article will depend on your institution’s journal subscriptions.