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New strains of norovirus affect thousands of Australians

New strains of norovirus affect thousands of Australians - Featured Image

Scientists from the University of New South Wales have identified three new strains of highly contagious norovirus responsible for an outbreak of gastroenteritis that affected thousands of Australians during winter.

Scores of outbreaks of nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea have occurred in Sydney, the Hunter region and the ACT, mainly in closed settings including aged care facilities, hospitals, childcare centres and cruise ships, with more cases expected.

On Saturday a 79-year-old woman died from what her family said was an outbreak of gastroenteritis on a cruise ship off the coast of Queensland, according to Fairfax Media reports. P&O has denied there was a gastro outbreak.

Professor Peter White and his team at the UNSW Faculty of Science discovered a new strain of norovirus in 2012, which caused a worldwide pandemic of gastro, including major outbreaks in Australia.

The strain, named Sydney 2012, was responsible for a large number of cases until this year.

“Now that Sydney 2012 has declined, three new strains of norovirus have emerged as a new major health concern,” Professor White said.

“They are responsible for a big increase in the number of gastro cases in Australia in the past two months, and this new spate of infection is likely to continue to cause a wave of sick leave that will affect businesses and schools already reeling from the effects of the current influenza epidemic.”

Each year, norovirus infects about two million Australians and kills about 220,000 people worldwide. The nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea usually last for two to three days.

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