A new strain of norovirus that was detected in Guangdong province now appears to be spreading across the globe. The stomach bug, known as GII.17, causes vomiting and diarrhea and could potentially sicken hundreds of millions of people worldwide, researchers say.
Concerns were high after “hundreds” of passengers were believed to have been infected with GII.17 on a Fred. Olsen & Co. cruise ship in Scandinavia last month.
Norovirus outbreaks are most prevalent in the winter, Bloomberg explains, but the number of infections witnessed over warmer months could determine how severe the outbreak will be when the mercury begins to drop.
An increase in the frequency of outbreaks on cruise ships over summer can predict a greater incidence in the community next winter, said Marion Koopmans, a professor of public health virology at Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in an interview Friday.
[…] Like flu, new strains emerge as the virus mutates, but while flu typically mutates quickly, new norovirus bugs tend to emerge only every two to four years, often leading to gastroenteritis pandemics that send hundreds of thousands of people to hospital.
[…] “What this could mean is that we’re looking at the emergence of a new genotype,” said Koopmans […] The new GII.17 virus could replace GII.4 to become the dominant strain circulating in other parts of the world, she said.
Cases of GII.17 have already emerged in the US, South America, Europe and Africa, scientists wrote in a paper which accompanied new Japanese research.
While there’s no medicine available yet to treat or prevent GII.17, a pharmaceutical company based in Osaka, Japan “has the most advanced vaccine in development”.
Norovirus symptoms, including fever, vomiting and diarrhea, typically last only a couple of days and infected food workers are usually the source of the outbreak, the report said.
by Maggie Wong