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Mysterious gut bug hits nursing homes

April 12, 2012
by Kevin Kolus
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An uncommon stomach virus first reported in Japan during the late 1970’s has been circulating among long-term care residents in Oregon and Minnesota since at least 2002, according to a study published online in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Sapovirus, a cousin of the well known and highly contagious norovirus, caused symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea and fever that lasted a median duration of 48 hours in the studied outbreaks.

As reported in the study, the Oregon and Minnesota state public health departments investigated 2,161 gastroenteritis outbreaks reported during 2002–2009. Of these, sapovirus was identified in 21 outbreaks, with 66 percent of the sapovirus cases occurring in LTC facilities.

According to the study, sapovirus and norovirus outbreaks are “clinically and epidemiologically similar enough to be indistinguishable without laboratory testing.”

MSNBC.com reported that Minnesota is already testing for sapovirus and Oregon will soon begin, “with other states following in the future, perhaps.”

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