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, 2 (7), 329-33

An Australia-wide Outbreak of Gastroenteritis From Oysters Caused by Norwalk Virus

  • PMID: 514174

An Australia-wide Outbreak of Gastroenteritis From Oysters Caused by Norwalk Virus

A M Murphy et al. Med J Aust.

Abstract

At least 2000 persons were involved in an Australia-wide outbreak of oyster-associated food poisoning in June and July, 1978. At the time, this episode presented a major health risk to the community as a whole and has subsequently posed a serious economic problem for the oyster farming and distributing industry. Although bacteriological investigations indicated some batches of oysters were contaminated by sewage, no bacterial cause could be established. The causative organism was shown to be Norwalk virus, a known cause of acute non-bacterial gastroenteritis. This virus was found in 39% of faecal specimens examined by electron microscopy and an antibody response was demonstrated by immune electron microscopy in 75% of paired sera tested. Norwalk virus has not been identified previously outside the United States of America and has not been linked to food-borne gastroenteritis before. Purification of oysters and other measures have been instituted to prevent a recurrence of the outbreak.

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