Outbreak of Norwalk virus in a Caribbean island resort: application of molecular diagnostics to ascertain the vehicle of infection

Epidemiol Infect. 2001 Jun;126(3):425-32. doi: 10.1017/s0950268801005556.


In 1998, an outbreak of gastroenteritis affected at least 448 persons including 122 staff at a resort hotel in Bermuda. A survey among staff indicated that gastroenteritis was associated with eating or drinking at the hotel (OR = 60, 95% CI = 2.4-15.1). Multiple specimens of drinking water had elevated faecal coliform levels and Escherichia coli present, suggestive of faecal contamination. Stools from 18 of the 19 persons with gastroenteritis that were tested were positive for genogroup-II Norwalk-like viruses (NLVs). RT-PCR analysis of a 31 specimen of water produced a genogroup-II NLV genome with a sequence identical to that of NLVs in the stools of three ill persons. This outbreak shows the value of new molecular diagnostics to link illness with a contaminated source through the use of sequence analysis. The risk of outbreaks such as these could be reduced in tourism dependent regions like Bermuda and the Caribbean by regular evaluation of data from the inspection and monitoring of drinking water supplies and waste water systems, by ensuring the chlorination of supplemental drinking water supplies and by establishing food-safety initiatives.

MeSH terms

  • Base Sequence
  • Bermuda / epidemiology
  • Caliciviridae Infections / diagnosis
  • Caliciviridae Infections / epidemiology*
  • Caliciviridae Infections / prevention & control
  • Caliciviridae Infections / transmission
  • Caliciviridae Infections / virology*
  • DNA, Viral / genetics*
  • Disease Outbreaks / statistics & numerical data*
  • Feces / virology
  • Food Microbiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / diagnosis
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / prevention & control
  • Foodborne Diseases / virology*
  • Gastroenteritis / diagnosis
  • Gastroenteritis / epidemiology*
  • Gastroenteritis / prevention & control
  • Gastroenteritis / virology*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Epidemiology / methods*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Norwalk virus / genetics*
  • Population Surveillance / methods
  • Public Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sanitation
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Time Factors
  • Water Microbiology*
  • Water Purification


  • DNA, Viral