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A Foodborne Outbreak Due to Norovirus in Austria, 2007

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A foodborne norovirus outbreak occurred after a pre-Christmas celebration among a group of local foresters in Austria in December 2007. A total of 66 persons, 60 participants of the Christmas party and 6 kitchen staff members of the restaurant where the party took place, were identified as the at-risk cohort. Questioning of this cohort was performed by self-report questionnaires or telephone interviews (response rate of 95%). The outbreak attack rate was 33.3% (21 of 63 persons), including two of the kitchen staff. Three stool specimens yielded norovirus genogroup II. Univariate analysis revealed that exposure to a ham roll and pastry was possibly associated with risk of gastroenteritis (risk ratio [RR] of 4.45, 95% CI of 1.91 to 10.9; RR of 2.44, 95% CI of 0.93 to 6.39). After controlling for the effects of sex, age, and other food items with a log-linear model, ham roll remained significantly associated with disease risk (RR of 3.91, 95% CI of 1.57 to 9.76). Ham roll was most likely contaminated with norovirus during preparation by a disease-free kitchen assistant, whose infant became sick with laboratory-confirmed norovirus gastroenteritis 2 days before the party. Informing food handlers about the possible risk of food contamination with norovirus and training them in the appropriate measures of hand hygiene and environmental disinfection at the working place and at home are essential for preventing food-related norovirus outbreaks. Norovirus-infected household members of healthy food handlers must be considered a possible reservoir for foodborne norovirus outbreaks.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, Vienna, Austria; National Health Command Center, Centers for Disease Control, Taipei, Taiwan 2: Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety, Vienna, Austria 3: Public Health Authority Upper Austria, Linz, Austria

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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