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Early identification of common-source foodborne virus outbreaks in Europe.

Abstract

The importance of foodborne viral infections is increasingly recognized. Food handlers can transmit infection during preparation or serving; fruit and vegetables may be contaminated by fecally contaminated water used for growing or washing. And the globalization of the food industry mean that a contaminated food item may not be limited to national distribution. International outbreaks do occur, but little data are available about the incidence of such events and the food items associated with the highest risks. We developed a combined research and surveillance program for enteric viruses involving 12 laboratories in 9 European countries. This project aims to gain insight into the epidemiology of enteric viruses in Europe and the role of food in transmission by harmonizing (i.e., assessing the comparability of data through studies of molecular detection techniques) and enhancing epidemiologic surveillance. We describe the setup and preliminary results of our system, which uses a Web-accessible central database to track viruses and provides the foundation for an early warning system of foodborne and other common-source outbreaks.

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