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New Norovirus Strain Now Highly Evident in New Zealand


New Norovirus Strain Now Highly Evident in New Zealand

The latest preliminary figures from the ESR’s Norovirus Reference Laboratory in Porirua show that a new norovirus strain known as Sydney_2012, was predominant in laboratory confirmed norovirus outbreaks across the country in December.

Joanne Hewitt is the Senior Scientist at the ESR's Norovirus Reference Laboratory, which tracks norovirus and its spread across the country. Joanne and her team have been working with Professor Peter White from the University of New South Wales, whose team identified the new GII.4 Sydney_2012 variant associated with increased numbers of reported outbreaks in New Zealand in late 2012.

The findings on the increase in norovirus associated with the emergence of the new strain were recently published internationally providing a warning for Healthcare institutions to be prepared for a 'severe norovirus season with the rise of the Sydney_2012 variant’.

Joanne Hewitt, who co-authored the paper with colleagues internationally, says early data from countries including New Zealand "indicates that this increase is associated with the emergence of a new variant of norovirus."

She says "Although present in early 2012, our surveillance figures show that New Zealand had an increase in the number of laboratory confirmed norovirus outbreaks in October and November 2012 (87 outbreaks compared to 14 and 23 for the same period in 2011 and 2010, respectively). The GII.4 Sydney_2012 variant was identified as the causative agent in 83% (67/81 outbreaks) of these outbreaks."

Laboratory results show that from October to December the GII.4 Sydney_2012 became the predominant strain. "Preliminary figures for December show around the country there were 21 norovirus outbreaks confirmed by ESR's Norovirus laboratory. Analysis to date confirms 17 of those as the Sydney_2012 variant”.
ESR’s Norovirus Laboratory is based in Porirua. Scientists there track norovirus reported across the country and identify new strains. The ESR scientists work closely with colleagues around the world to monitor and report on the spread of the virus and to track new emerging noroviruses. ENDS

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