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Foodborne Snow Mountain agent gastroenteritis with secondary person-to-person spread in a retirement community


A variety of small round-structured viruses are being recognized with increasing frequency as a cause of gastroenteritis in the community, but have rarely been reported to cause outbreaks in hospitals or extended-care facilities. From March 20 through April 15, 1988, an outbreak of gastroenteritis occurred in a retirement facility in the San Francisco Bay area. Illness was characterized by diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting; two residents died. Attack rates were 46% (155 of 336) in residents and 37% (28 of 75) in employees. During the initial outbreak period, illness among residents was associated with two shrimp meals served in the facility dining hall (odds ratio = 6.7). Person-to-person transmission probably occurred: The risk of becoming ill one or two days after a roommate became ill was significantly greater than that of becoming ill at other times during the outbreak (risk ratio = 6.5). Microbiologic examinations for bacterial and parasitic enteric pathogens were negative; however, 27-nm viral particles were detected by immune electron microscopy and by blocking enzyme immunoassay to Snow Mountain agent in stools obtained at the onset of illness from one of six ill residents. Seroconversion (greater than fourfold antibody rise) to Snow Mountain agent was detected in acute- and convalescent-phase serum specimens from five of six ill residents as measured by enzyme immunoassay, but not for Norwalk agent as measured by radioimmunoassay. This report of an outbreak of Snow Mountain agent gastroenteritis in an extended-care facility documents that these difficult-to-identify 27-nm viruses can cause outbreaks in inpatient settings.

Gordon SM, Oshiro LS, Jarvis WR, Donenfeld D, Ho MS, Taylor F, Greenberg HB, Glass R, Madore HP, Dolin R

Am. J. Epidemiol. 1990 Apr;131(4):702-10

PMID: 2107737