Multistate outbreak of Norwalk-like virus gastroenteritis associated with a common caterer

Am J Epidemiol. 2001 Dec 1;154(11):1013-9. doi: 10.1093/aje/154.11.1013.


In February 2000, an outbreak of gastroenteritis occurred among employees of a car dealership in New York. The same meal was also supplied to 52 dealerships nationwide, and 13 states reported illness at dealerships where the banquet was served. A retrospective cohort study was conducted to identify risk factors associated with the illness. Stool samples were collected to detect Norwalk-like virus, and sera were drawn and tested for immunoglobulin A antibodies to the outbreak strain. By univariate analysis, illness was significantly associated with consumption of any of four salads served at the banquet (relative risk = 3.8, 95% confidence interval: 2.5, 5.6). Norwalk-like virus was detected by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction assay in 32 of 59 stool samples from eight states. Nucleotide sequences of a 213-base pair fragment from 16 stool specimens collected from cases in eight states were identical, confirming a common source outbreak. Two of 15 workers at caterer A had elevated immunoglobulin A titers to an antigenically related Norwalk-like virus strain. This study highlights the value of molecular techniques to complement classic epidemiologic methods in outbreak investigations and underscores the critical role of food handlers in the spread of foodborne disease associated with Norwalk-like virus.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caliciviridae Infections / epidemiology*
  • Caliciviridae Infections / virology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Feces / virology
  • Female
  • Food Microbiology
  • Foodborne Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / virology*
  • Gastroenteritis / epidemiology*
  • Gastroenteritis / virology*
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Norwalk virus / isolation & purification*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Immunoglobulin A