Evidence for airborne transmission of Norwalk-like virus (NLV) in a hotel restaurant

Epidemiol Infect. 2000 Jun;124(3):481-7. doi: 10.1017/s0950268899003805.


An outbreak of gastroenteritis followed a meal in a large hotel during which one of the diners vomited. The clinical features of the illness suggested Norwalk-like virus (NLV, small round structured virus) infection, and this was confirmed by electron microscopy and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) of stool samples. Further characterization of the virus by nucleotide sequence analysis of the PCR amplicons revealed identical strains in all the affected individuals. The foods served at the meal could not be demonstrated to be the cause of the outbreak. Analysis of attack rates by dining table showed an inverse relationship with the distance from the person who vomited. No one eating in a separate restaurant reported illness. Transmission from person-to-person or direct contamination of food seems unlikely in this outbreak. However, the findings are consistent with airborne spread of NLV with infection by inhalation with subsequent ingestion of virus particles.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Caliciviridae Infections / genetics
  • Caliciviridae Infections / transmission*
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Disease Transmission, Infectious*
  • Female
  • Gastroenteritis / virology*
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norwalk virus* / genetics
  • Restaurants
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Vomiting


  • DNA, Viral