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Clin Infect Dis. 2007 Apr 15;44(8):1026-31. Epub 2007 Mar 9.

Internationally distributed frozen oyster meat causing multiple outbreaks of norovirus infection in Australia.

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  • 1Centre for Disease Control, Darwin, Australia.



Between November 2003 and January 2004, outbreaks of norovirus in 3 Australian jurisdictions involving 83 cases of illness were associated with imported oyster meat.


Cohort studies were conducted in 2 jurisdictions to identify relative risks of illness for the consumption of oysters. A case series was conducted in the third jurisdiction.


The cohort studies conducted in the first 2 jurisdictions identified relative risks of illness of 17 (95% confidence interval, 5-51) and 35 (95% confidence interval, 5-243), respectively, for the consumption of oysters. Multiple strains of norovirus were detected in fecal specimens from 8 of 14 patients and in 1 of the 3 batches of implicated oyster meat using seminested reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction methods. Traceback investigations revealed that all oyster meat was harvested from the same estuary system in Japan within the same month.


These outbreaks demonstrate the potential of foodborne disease to spread internationally and the need for national and international collaboration to investigate such outbreaks. Foodborne illness related to norovirus is underestimated because of underreporting of human cases and challenges in laboratory detection of viruses in foods, both of which can delay public health action.

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