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J Hosp Infect. 1998 May;39(1):39-45.

The role of environmental contamination with small round structured viruses in a hospital outbreak investigated by reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction assay.

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  • 1Enteric and Respiratory Virus Laboratory, Central Public Health Laboratory, London, UK.


In May 1994 an outbreak of vomiting and diarrhoea occurred in a 28-bed long-stay ward for the mentally infirm. The predominant symptoms were vomiting, diarrhoea, malaise and abdominal pain lasting for approximately 12 h in most cases. The attack rate was 62% (13/21) for patients and 46% (16/35) for staff members. Infection control measures were implemented (containment of infectious individuals, hand hygiene among staff and environmental decontamination) and the ward was closed to admissions. Affected staff were excluded from contact with patients and their food until asymptomatic for 72 h. The outbreak lasted for 17 days. Faecal samples from nine symptomatic persons were negative for bacterial enteric pathogens, Giardia, Cryptosporidium and group A rotavirus. Electron microscopy of 12 faecal samples and one sample of vomitus revealed small round structured virus (SRSV) particles in one faecal sample. A further 30 faecal samples and seven vomitus samples were tested by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for SRSV of which 12 (40%) and 1 (14%) were positive respectively. Twenty-eight throat swabs from symptomatic and asymptomatic patients were collected, three (9.5%) of which were positive for SRSV by RT-PCR. Thirty-six environmental swabs were collected on the affected ward, and 11 (30%) were positive by RT-PCR. Positive swabs were from lockers, curtains and commodes and confined to the immediate environment of symptomatic patients. The distribution of contamination supports the rationale of cohorting sick patients.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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