Editorials

Winter vomiting

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7332.249 (Published 02 February 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:249

Infections due to Norwalk-like viruses are underestimated

  1. John M Cowden, consultant epidemiologist (John.Cowden@scieh.csa.scot.nhs.uk)
  1. Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health, Glasgow G3 7LN

    The current outbreaks of winter vomiting reported from Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland have affected as many as 20 hospitals and resulted in the cancellation of many elective and emergency admissions. Winter vomiting is due to infection with subtypes of the genus Norwalk-like virus—a term that is now preferred to small round structured virus.1 Infections with Norwalk-like viruses are reported even less often in national surveillance in the United Kingdom than other gastrointestinal pathogens such as salmonella and campylobacter (see table), although they probably account for as much clinical disease in the population as any other pathogen. The undoubtedly enormous cost of control measures, cancelled operations, and other disruptions in hospitals has not been estimated in the United Kingdom.

    View this table:

    Laboratory reports to Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (for England and Wales) and Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health

    Between 1993 and 2001, laboratory reports of identifications of the small round structured virus to the Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health rose from 85 to 328. 2 3 Reports of general outbreaks of infectious intestinal disease due to small round structured virus infections increased from 17 in 1996 (the year surveillance started) to 38 in 2001 (unpublished data). It is impossible to estimate what proportion of these increases is due to improved laboratory technology, improved reporting, …

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