Investigation and control of a Norovirus outbreak of probable waterborne transmission through a municipal groundwater system

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During March 2011 an outbreak of gastroenteritis occurred in Santo Stefano di Quisquina, Agrigento, Sicily, Italy. Within two weeks 156 cases were identified among the 4,965 people living in the municipality. An epidemiological investigation was conducted to characterize the outbreak and target the control measures. A case was defined as a person developing diarrhea or vomiting during February 27–March 13, 2011. Stool specimens were collected from 12 cases. Norovirus (NoV) genotype GII.4 variant New Orleans 2009 was identified in stool samples from 11 of 12 cases tested (91.7%). Epidemiological investigations suggested a possible association with municipal drinking water consumption. Water samples from the public water system were tested for NoV and a variety of genotypes were detected during the first 3 months of surveillance, including GII.4 strains belonging to different variants from that involved in the gastroenteritis outbreak. Contamination of the well and springs supplying the public water network was eventually thought to be the source of the NoV contamination.

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