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New norovirus strain, Sydney 2012, number one cause of recent outbreaks in U.S.

The new norovirus strain, first detected in Australia last March, known as GII.4 Sydney, was implicated as the number one cause of norovirus outbreaks in the United States during the last quarter of 2012,according to a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) released Jan. 24by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Norovirus Image/CDC

Norovirus Image/CDC

According to the report, greater than half (53 percent) of all norovirus outbreaks were caused by the novel strain based on data collected through CaliciNet, says CDC researchers.

Specifically, researchers found that of the 266 norovirus outbreaks reported during the last four months of 2012, 141 were caused by the GII.4 Sydney strain.

“The new strain spread rapidly across the United States from September to December 2012,” said Dr. Aron Hall, epidemiologist, CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases (DVD). “The proportion of reported outbreaks caused by this strain increased dramatically from 19 percent in September to 58 percent in December.”

The Sydney strain of norovirus has been implicated in outbreaks in the United Kingdom andJapan, among other countries in 2012.

In recent history, strains belonging to norovirus (NoV) GII.4 have been responsible for the majority of outbreaks, as well as community cases of acute gastroenteritis. It has been suggested that hospitalization and deaths occur more frequently during peak seasons associated with new NoV GII.4 variants.

“New norovirus strains often lead to more outbreaks but not always,” said Dr. Jan Vinjé, director of CaliciNet. Over the past decade, new strains of GII.4 have emerged about every 2 to 3 years. “We found that the new GII.4 Sydney strain replaced the previously predominant GII.4 strain.”

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that cause the “stomach flu,” or gastroenteritis in people.

The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. The illness often begins suddenly, and the infected person may feel very sick. In most people, the illness is self-limiting with symptoms lasting for about 1 or 2 days. In general, children experience more vomiting than adults do.

Norovirus is spread person to person particularly in crowded, closed places. Norovirus is typically spread through contaminated food and water, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus and then putting your hand or fingers in your mouth and close contact with someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea.

“Right now, it’s too soon to tell whether the new strain of norovirus will lead to more outbreaks than in previous years. However, CDC continues to work with state partners to watch this closely and see if the strain is associated with more severe illness,” said Dr. Hall.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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