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Public Health Rep. 1989 Mar-Apr;104(2):164-9.

An outbreak of acute infectious nonbacterial gastroenteritis in a high school in Maryland.

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Food and Drug Administration, Rockville, MD 20857.


An outbreak of acute infectious nonbacterial gastroenteritis (AING) occurred in a high school in Maryland in 1984. Thirty-six percent of students surveyed met the case definition of gastroenteritis, as did 24 percent of school employees. Eating lunch in the cafeteria on January 30 was significantly associated with illness. After controlling for other food items consumed during the January 30 lunch, only the sandwiches were significantly associated with illness, but the source of the contamination was not identified. Four of 17 serum pairs from sick students and none of the 8 serum pairs from exposed controls (a nonsignificant difference) showed at least a 4-fold rise in antibody titre to Norwalk virus between acute- and convalescent-phase specimens. This outbreak of AING is believed to be the first to implicate epidemiologically sandwiches as vehicles of transmission. The outbreak highlights the need for investigators to look for a viral etiology in gastroenteritis outbreaks.

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