ECDC comment (2007-01-15):
DIVINE-NET, a European wide surveillance network for norovirus outbreaks, has noted that Europe is currently facing an increased norovirus activity for the season 2006-2007. The new norovirus variants of GII.4-2006 are most likely the dominating circulating strains. Plans for prevention and control measures should be in place in hospitals and other public settings. Specific attention should be paid to the cleaning and disinfection of vomits as vomiting spreads effectively the infection further. The role of foods, such as oysters and imported raspberries, as vectors for norovirus transmission, should not be neglected as they have been associated in several norovirus outbreaks in many countries for many years. The recommendation in some countries has been to give a rapid heat treatment for imported, frozen raspberries or only to use them for food, which is heat treated.
Due to the consecutive norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships ECDC organized an expert meeting for different parties in September 2006 to discuss and agree on further actions to be taken. The main conclusions of the meeting were:
- On European level, a commonly agreed approach is needed to response in a coordinated way to international outbreaks in cruise ships
- There is a need for a generic set of guidelines on basic hygiene principles, with special attention to prevention and control of norovirus outbreaks
The recommendations of the expert meeting are to be followed and a new meeting with practical level stake holders is planned to be organized in 2007.
ECDC is a collaborating partner in an EU-wide project, Ship Sanitation Programme (SHIPSAN), which has received funding from DG SANCO. SHIPSAN is aiming at assessing the usefulness of an EU ship sanitation programme and a coordinated action for the control of communicable diseases in cruise ships and ferries.