Journal article Open Access

?Norwalk-like viruses? as a cause of foodborne disease outbreaks

Parashar, Umesh D.; Monroe, Stephan S.

While outbreaks of foodborne disease remain an important public health concern, their aetiology is not identified in a majority of instances. In targeted studies, the application of newly developed molecular assays has demonstrated that a large proportion of these outbreaks may be caused by the 'Norwalk‐like viruses' (NLV), a genus of genetically related viruses belonging to the family Caliciviridae. NLV outbreaks associated with consumption of faecally contaminated oysters are frequently reported and can best be controlled by preventing contamination of oyster‐harvesting waters. Infectious foodhandlers are another frequent source of contamination, and such transmission can be minimised by exclusion of ill foodhandlers and the maintenance of strict personal hygiene. Molecular assays have greatly refined the epidemiological investigation of foodborne NLV outbreaks, allowing the linking of outbreaks in different locations and permitting the identification of the virus in the implicated vehicle. The development of simpler and more sensitive assays and their use on a broader scale will assist in defining the true burden of foodborne NLV outbreaks and improve strategies for their prevention and control.

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