Highly Contagious Food Poisoning Virus Spreads Rapidly into U.S.

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(Newswire.net — February 17, 2013) Los Angeles, CA — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that a new strain of norovirus has overtaken previous strains in the U.S.  Named GII.4 Sydney, after first being identified in Australia.

Noroviruses are already the most common cause of gastroenteritis, aka stomach flu, in the U.S, causing bouts of vomiting and diarrhea for 2-3 days.   What’s alarming about this new strain is the data collected by the CDC shows the GII.4 Sydney strain is responsible for a statistically significant increase in the proportion of acute gastroenteritis outbreaks – almost 60% of norovirus outbreaks(1).

It may not be any more dangerous than previous strains, according to some scientists, but because it is new and different people may not be able to resist it.  Noroviruses are already highly contagious and spread quickly from an infected person.  According to the CDC report “Most (51%) of these GII.4 Sydney outbreaks resulted from direct person-to-person transmission; 20% were foodborne, 1% was waterborne, and the transmission mode was unknown in 28% of the outbreaks. Long-term–care facilities and restaurants were the most frequently reported settings, accounting for 65% and 13% of the GII.4 Sydney outbreaks, respectively.”

Infected food handlers are a common source when they don’t thoroughly wash their hands after using the restroom.  This has resulted in noroviruses being a common cause if not the most common cause of food poisoning in the U.S.  Noroviruses can also be spread through the air via droplets, unlike other foodborne illnesses such Salmonella.

Norovirus infection is commonly mistaken for the flu because of similar symptoms.  A primary difference being the speed at which norovirus symptoms affects a person.  According to Ian Goodfellow, a prominent researcher at England’s University of Cambridge, “It can sweep through an environment very, very quickly. You can be feeling quite fine one minute and within several hours suffer continuous vomiting and diarrhea.”  

For the infected, suffering person, there is no medicine.  One can only guard against dehydration and seek immediate medical attention for those most susceptible to developing complications (i.e. young children, elderly and those with compromised immune systems).

Noroviruses result in an estimated 21 million illnesses and 800 deaths each year, according to the CDC.

To prevent the spread, don’t handle food or beverages for others and stay home when infected.  Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently using soap and water.  Also, thoroughly cook meats, seafoods and poultry, and thoroughly rinse fruits and vegetables.

For more information on how to avoid food poisoning please visit:  www.FoodPoisoningPrevention.com

  1. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6203a4.htm?s_cid=mm6203a4_x