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Am J Public Health. 1982 Dec;72(12):1329-32.

The frequency of a Norwalk-like pattern of illness in outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis.


Records of 642 outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis were reviewed to determine the proportion of outbreaks that were clinically and epidemiologically consistent with Norwalk-like virus infection. Using as our criteria stool cultures negative for bacterial pathogens, mean (or median) duration of illness 12-60 hours, vomiting in greater than or equal to 50 per cent of cases, and, if known, mean (or median) incubation period of 24-48 hours, we found that 23 per cent of waterborne outbreaks, 4 per cent of foodborne outbreaks, and 67 per cent, 60 per cent, and 28 per cent of outbreaks in nursing homes, in summer camps, and on cruise ships, respectively, satisfied the criteria for Norwalk-like pattern. Of 54 outbreaks that satisfied the criteria for Norwalk-like pattern, 14 were investigated for virus etiology. Ten of these (71 per cent) yielded serologic evidence of Norwalk-like virus infection. Norwalk-like viruses are probably an important cause of outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis. Investigation for Norwalk virus antibody in outbreaks that are clinically and epidemiologically consistent with Norwalk-like virus infection is likely to yield diagnostically useful results.

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