This week the CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CMMW) announced that a new strain of norovirus, GII.4 Sydney, is currently the leading cause of norovirus outbreaks in the U.S. and was responsible for 141 of the 266 norovirus outbreaks from September to December 2012. Long-term care settings were hit hardest, accounting for 65 percent of reported outbreaks.
Noroviruses, formerly called Norwalk viruses, are highly contagious and easily spread through person to person contact. The virus causes inflammation in the stomach and/or intestines, which results in severe stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea for those infected. According to a CBS News report, infected food handlers with poor hand washing hygiene after using the bathroom are a common source of outbreaks. However, the virus is also easily transmitted in the air droplets.
“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. Aron Hall, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases, in a statement.
To address the contagion, the CDC recommends continuing best practices of infection control, which include ensuring proper hand and environmental hygiene and isolating infected persons.