In June 2006, an outbreak alert regarding cases of acute gastroenteritis in a region in North Eastern Greece (population 100,882 inhabitants), triggered investigations to guide control measures. The outbreak started the first days of June, and peaked in July. A descriptive epidemiological study, a virological characterization of the viral agent identified from cases as well as a phylogenetic analysis was performed. From June 5 to September 3, 2006 (weeks 23-44), 1,640 cases of gastroenteritis (45.2% male and 54.8% female, aged 3 months to 89 years) were reported. The overall attack rate for the period was 16.3 cases/1,000 inhabitants. About 57% of cases observed were under the age of 15 years. Analysis of faecal samples identified Norovirus GII strains. Fifteen different Norovirus GII strains were recorded, presenting a homology of 94.8% (86-97%) to GII strains obtained from GenBank. The long duration of the outbreak suggests an important role of person-to-person transmission, while the emergence of the outbreak was possibly due to contaminated potable water, although no viruses were detected in any tested water samples. This outbreak underscores the need for a national surveillance system for acute non-bacterial gastroenteritis outbreaks.
Keywords: Greece; Noroviruses; genogroup II (GGII); outbreak; phylogenetic analysis.