A waterborne outbreak of gastroenteritis with secondary person-to-person spread. Association with a viral agent

Lancet. 1979 May 5;1(8123):964-6. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(79)91734-3.


In December, 1976, an outbreak of gastroenteritis occurred at a resort camp in Colorado. Data obtained by questionnaire from 760 persons indicated that 418 (55%) had had gastroenteritis at the camp or within a week of leaving it, with peak onset within a two-day period. Symptoms included vomiting (81%), diarrhoea (65%), and fever (49%); median duration of illness was twenty-four hours. The attack-rate increased with consumption of water or ice-containing beverages. The camp water supply was found to be inadequately chlorinated and contaminated by a leaking septic tank. Although routine laboratory tests did not reveal bacterial, viral, or parasitic pathogens, immune electron microscopy detected virus-like particles in two of five diarrhoeal stool filtrates. Oral administration of one of these bacteria-free filtrates to two volunteers induced a gastrointestinal illness similar to that observed in the camp visitors.

MeSH terms

  • Camping*
  • Colorado
  • Disease Outbreaks / epidemiology*
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Gastroenteritis / etiology*
  • Gastroenteritis / microbiology
  • Gastroenteritis / transmission
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Virus Diseases / etiology*
  • Virus Diseases / microbiology
  • Virus Diseases / transmission
  • Water Microbiology*
  • Water Supply