Norovirus foodborne outbreaks associated with the consumption of oysters from the étang de Thau, France, December 2002

Publié le 1 Janvier 2004
Mis à jour le 10 septembre 2019

In January 2003, the Institut de Veille Sanitaire received notification of clusters of gastroenteritis (GE) thought to be associated with consumption of oysters harvested from Etang de Thau in the south of France. At the same time Italy reported an outbreak (200+ cases) associated with oysters from the Etang de Thau. An investigation was carried out to determine the source and vehicle of the outbreaks. Descriptive analysis of reported clusters in France, microbiological analysis of stool and oyster samples, genotyping of noroviruses and an environmental investigation of the Etang de Thau were carried out. A retrospective cohort study was also undertaken among those attending a number of family meals in Paris. Thirteen family clusters in four districts of France (69 cases) could be attributed to the consumption of Thau oysters based on descriptive evidence. Oysters distributed at an office in Paris and consumed at fourteen family meals between 19 and 24 December led to a further outbreak. In this outbreak the attack rate was 21/36 (58%) for Thau oyster consumers and 0/22 for non-consumers (p=0.00002). Noroviruses (genogroups I and II) were found in stool samples from four clusters and oysters from three clusters (including Paris). Environmental investigations revealed heavy rainfall, an overflow of a water purification station and faecal contamination of the Etang de Thau in December. Oysters from the Etang de Thau were responsible for a number of clusters of norovirus GE in winter 2002 in France and also in Italy. High Escherichia Coli levels in Thau water and shellfish led to an official request, mid-December, for oyster purification before distribution. This was not possible, due to lack of purification facilities. This investigation has contributed to a change in the way that shellfish harvesting areas are classified in France.

Auteur : Doyle A, Barataud D, Gallay A, Thiolet JM, Le Guyader S, Kohli E, Vaillant V
Eurosurveillance. European communicable disease quarterly, 2004, vol. 9, n°. 1, p. 24-6