Purpose of review: Descriptions of outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis have become a prominent feature in scientific journals and other media such as the electronic reporting service 'promed'. A review of outbreak reports was done to further our understanding of the burden of disease, common and rare modes of transmission, complications, and possibilities for control and prevention.
Recent findings: Viral gastroenteritis outbreaks occur worldwide. In 2004, besides outbreak reports and surveys, there was considerable attention paid to food and waterborne outbreaks and the difficulties in proving these modes of transmission. Costs of viral gastroenteritis outbreaks are high. Complications and unusual manifestations of viral gastroenteritis, such as convulsions, transplant rejection, and chronic infection, may have been underreported.
Summary: Viral gastroenteritis is a very common illness in health care settings that can cause significant disruption. Clinicians working in these settings should be familiar with the epidemiology and the possible modes of transmission of enteric viruses to be able to translate them into strategies for prevention or intervention. Research is needed to support these strategies.