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Euro Surveill. 2012 Mar 1;17(9). pii: 20103.

Gastroenteritis outbreaks in elderly homes in the east of France during winter 2009/10: aetiology research for a series of 37 outbreaks.

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Eastern Regional Office (Cire-Est) of the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance (Institut de Veille Sanitaire, InVS), Nancy, France.


Although acute gastroenteritis is a common cause of morbi-mortality in care homes, there is no national surveillance system in France except for food-borne gastroenteritis. Since 2008, a specific surveillance system has been operating in nursing homes in Alsace, a region in eastern French. In the winter season 2009/10 we had the opportunity to study 37 outbreaks, collecting data on attack rate, duration and aetiology as well as epidemic management in nursing homes. We noticed the responsiveness of the institutions, with a mean period of 1.6 days between the onset of first symptoms and the implementation of management measures (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.0–2.2). One or several stool samples were taken in 27 of the 37 described outbreaks. The only pathogen detected was norovirus, and the positive samples were from outbreaks with a very typical pattern: vomiting in 36 of the outbreaks, a high average attack rate of 36.8% (95% CI: 31.5–42.2) and a short average duration of 8.9 days (95% CI: 5.8–7.0). No severe cases, hospitalisations or deaths were reported. The high frequency of norovirus isolation indicated that systematic bacteriological analysis in local laboratories is not cost-effective. Consequently, Cire Est recommends to test for bacteria and viruses only in cases presenting with fever or atypical symptoms. Nevertheless, Cire Est also recommends to continue sending stool samples to the French National Centre for enteric viruses, more for the benefit of the virological surveillance programme than for diagnostic purposes.

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