History of Norovirus

black-white-norovirus-historyNorovirus is a very debilitating food borne illness. The illness is characterized by nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting and  diarrhea. Lethargy, aching limbs, coughs and a raised temperature may also occur. There is no cure for Norovirus and it is highly contagious.  Infections are transferred to individuals through contaminated surfaces, contaminated food and water. In light of this, those infected by the virus are generally advised to stay away from crowds and public spaces until the disease has run its course. This is normally for a about two to three days.

History of Norovirus
The first instance of Norovirus was noted by, pediatrician, Dr. J Zahorsky in 1929. Although it was not known by that name then, the doctor wrote an account of sporadic cases of vomiting and watery diarrhea among his patients during the months of November to May. Dr. Zahorsky underscored the importance of good sanitation during the labor process and when caring for infants to prevent the onset of this illness. He coined the term “Winter Vomiting Sickness” due to his extensive study of the illness.

First Outbreak of Norovirus
The first ever outbreak case of Norovirus was recorded in the American town of Norwalk, Ohio. An outbreak of gastroenteritis was reported among children and staff at an elementary school in the town. The virus was only identified in 1972 after the inspection of stool samples that were stored from the outbreak. It was then that it was named Norwalk virus. This was relative to the fact that the first known outbreak occurred in the town of Norwalk.

Popular Names of Norovirus
Norovirus is known by many names. The names include Norwalk virus, Norwalk-like virus, Norwalk agent, small rounded structured viruses, winter vomiting bug, winter vomiting disease, Snow Mountain virus, acute non-bacterial gastro-enteritis, viral gastro-enteritis and stomach flu. In 2002, the International Committee of Taxanomy of Viruses approved the ubiquitous name – Norovirus. This is the name predominantly used to refer to the virus, despite encouragement from ICTV, in 2012, for scientific bodies, media and health authorities to use the name Norwalk virus when referring to an outbreak of the disease.

Old Cases of Norovirus
Since the first recorded outbreak in 1968, there have been several reported cases of Norovirus, especially on cruise ships. Two of the most widespread outbreak of Norovirus on cruise ships was reported on Queen Elizabeth 2nd Cruise Ship and Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas. The virus affected more than 300 individuals on the Queen Elizabeth vessel, of which 276 were passengers. Aboard the Royal Caribbean Vessel, 338 passengers were affected. Both outbreaks occurred within less than a month of each other.  In 2012, a widespread epidemic of Norovirus occurred in Germany. There were more than 11,000 reported cases between September 19 and October 17. The cases were reported by over 370 institutions including schools and hospitals. This outbreak was attributed to contaminated frozen strawberries imported from China. To date, this is the largest outbreak in Germany. As a result of the Germany Norovirus outbreak, regulations were put in place by the European Union which now requires frozen strawberries from China to undergo testing for Norovirus.

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