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USDA Funds Norovirus Study

North Carolina State University (NCSU) has received a $25 million federal grant to study how human noroviruses are transmitted and survive in food, with a goal of finding better ways to control them and reduce the number of foodborne illnesses they cause.

The grant was announced Wednesday by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the annual conference of the International Association for Food Protection in Milwaukee.

Human noroviruses cause more than 21 million illnesses each year, and more than half of all foodborne disease outbreaks are due to noroviruses.

Highly contagious, noroviruses are found in the stools or vomit of infected people, and can be spread through contact with people who are infected — shaking hands or touching something they’ve touched, for instance. Outbreaks occur more often in enclosed settings or close living quarters, such as nursing homes, child-care centers, restaurants, catered events and on cruise ships.

Food and water can become contaminated with noroviruses. The primary foods at risk are molluscan shellfish, fresh produce and foods that are extensively handled just prior to consumption.

There is, as of yet, no vaccine to prevent norovirus infection and there is no specific drug to treat norovirus illness. Infections usually do not cause long-term health problems, but they can cause short-term misery.

NCSU food science professor Lee-Ann Jaykus will lead the team of researchers to establish the USDA-NIFA Food Virology Collaborative. In addition to NCSU, the team will include scientists at Clemson University, Baylor College of Medicine, Emory University and the National Foundation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — all together, more than 30 collaborators from across academia, industry and government.

In addition to developing rapid methods to detect noroviruses and several other objectives, the team will develop online training for food safety and health professionals and food service workers, and provide information to fresh produce and shellfish producers and processors on the risks, management and control of foodborne viruses.

The project grant was awarded through USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative and will be administered through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. 

© Food Safety News
  • hhamil

    According to the most recent “ESTIMATES” of foodborne illness published by the CDC, the ENTIRE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH IS INCORRECT:
    “Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States, responsible for more than 21 million illnesses annually. More than half of all foodborne disease outbreaks are due to noroviruses.”
    “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States–Major Pathogens”(http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/17/1/pdfs/09-1101p1.pdf) begins,”Estimates of foodborne illness can be used to direct food safety policy and interventions. We used data from active and passive surveillance and other sources to estimate that each year 31 major pathogens acquired in the United States caused 9.4 million episodes of foodborne illness (90% credible interval [CrI] 6.6‚Äì12.7 million)…” That’s 9.4 million for ALL major pathogens‚Äîquite a bit less than the 21 million attributed above to norovirus alone.
    In Table 2, the authors ESTIMATE the TOTAL incidence of norovirus as 20,796,079. The part GUESSTIMATED to be attributable to foodborne illness is 5,461,731. I wrote, “guesstimated” because, according to the article, the statistical techniques employed estimate the “90% credible interval” to be “3,227,078‚Äì8,309,480.” That means that there is a 90% probability that the actual incidence is between 3,227,078 and 8,309,480. Quite a range, isn‚Äôt it?
    According to Scallan, et al’s second article, “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the US–Unspecified Agents” (http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/17/1/pdfs/09-1101p2.pdf), “If the proportions acquired by domestic foodborne transmission were similar to those for known gastroenteritis pathogens, then an estimated 38.4 million (90% credible interval [CrI] 19.8‚Äì61.2 million) episodes of domestically acquired foodborne illness were caused by unspecified agents…” How was that for a wonderfully equivocal “estimate?”
    Thus, by far the leading “cause” of foodborne illness in the US (by almost 7 to 1) is ‚ÄúUNSPECIFIED AGENTS.‚Äù
    How useful is all of this?
    When the new “estimates” were published, Marion Nestle wrote that “like the 1999 estimates, [the 2010 ones] are still guesses” (http://www.foodpolitics.com/2010/12/cdc-halves-foodborne-illness-count-but-why-now/).
    Food Safety News needs to read USDA (and FDA and CDC) press releases just as carefully and skeptically as it does those from raw milk supporters because, even when factually correct, they can be misleading. And sometimes that is intentional.
    Finally, I have repeatedly written comments like this because the misuse and abuse of statistics is something that galls me. I’ve also been concerned that average readers of Food Safety News would be misled by them. I have repeatedly asked everyone at Food Safety News to be more careful but my concerns have obviously fallen on deaf ears. I simply cannot afford the time required to write these. I keep hoping against continually growing evidence that FSN’s professional journalists will have enough dedication to their profession that they will improve their accuracy by opening themselves to my critiques and investigating their own biases and those of their publisher, Bill Marler.
    For their sake and food safety regulation, I hope so.

  • Doc Mudd

    Well, Harry, seems the FSN crew actually may have slightly underestimated the prevalence of norovirus…
    Noroviruses “are the most common cause of foodborne disease worldwide. In the U.S. NoV infections are responsible for more than two-thirds of all foodborne gastroenteritis outbreaks (Bresee, et al 2002) and cause approximately 23 million cases each year (Mead, et al 1999).”
    http://www.discoverymedicine.com/Hoonmo-L-Koo/2010/07/22/noroviruses-the-leading-cause-of-gastroenteritis-worldwide/
    You’re only off by about 50% with your “statistics” — maybe you’re using the new math, Harry? You are obviously taxed to the limit by all of this, as you inform us.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vetg7vWitTU
    .
    Some folks certainly know how to put the ‘anal’ in analysis!

  • Matt J

    The impact of foodborne outbreaks caused by noroviruses goes beyond the actual illness cases. Because it is so common, a growing number of public health programs don’t thoroughly investigate possible foodborne outbreaks because they assume (correctly 2/3 of the time or better) that noroviruses are the cause.
    As a result, two unfortunate trends are emerging. Outbreaks attributable to other agents may not be investigated, and norovirus outbreaks continue to be underreported and poorly understood.
    An increasingly common attitude is that since norovirus infections almost always resolve in a few days, the situation is not serious enough to warrant a complete investigation. Infected individuals often have a different point of view.
    I hope the NCSU project is successful, but greater understanding of the mechanics of norovirus outbreaks is not possible without prompt, thorough investigations of foodborne outbreaks. Public Health agencies are generally heading the wrong way on this issue.

  • Harry Hamil

    According to the most recent “ESTIMATES” of foodborne illness published by the CDC, the ENTIRE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH IS INCORRECT:
    “Norovirus is the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States, responsible for more than 21 million illnesses annually. More than half of all foodborne disease outbreaks are due to noroviruses.”
    “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States–Major Pathogens”(http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/17/1/pdfs/09-1101p1.pdf) begins,”Estimates of foodborne illness can be used to direct food safety policy and interventions. We used data from active and passive surveillance and other sources to estimate that each year 31 major pathogens acquired in the United States caused 9.4 million episodes of foodborne illness (90% credible interval [CrI] 6.6‚Äì12.7 million)…” That’s 9.4 million for ALL major pathogens‚Äîquite a bit less than the 21 million attributed above to norovirus alone.
    In Table 2, the authors ESTIMATE the TOTAL incidence of norovirus as 20,796,079. The part GUESSTIMATED to be attributable to foodborne illness is 5,461,731. I wrote, “guesstimated” because, according to the article, the statistical techniques employed estimate the “90% credible interval” to be “3,227,078‚Äì8,309,480.” That means that there is a 90% probability that the actual incidence is between 3,227,078 and 8,309,480. Quite a range, isn‚Äôt it?
    According to Scallan, et al’s second article, “Foodborne Illness Acquired in the US–Unspecified Agents” (http://www.cdc.gov/eid/content/17/1/pdfs/09-1101p2.pdf), “If the proportions acquired by domestic foodborne transmission were similar to those for known gastroenteritis pathogens, then an estimated 38.4 million (90% credible interval [CrI] 19.8‚Äì61.2 million) episodes of domestically acquired foodborne illness were caused by unspecified agents…” How was that for a wonderfully equivocal “estimate?”
    Thus, by far the leading “cause” of foodborne illness in the US (by almost 7 to 1) is ‚ÄúUNSPECIFIED AGENTS.‚Äù
    How useful is all of this?
    When the new “estimates” were published, Marion Nestle wrote that “like the 1999 estimates, [the 2010 ones] are still guesses” (http://www.foodpolitics.com/2010/12/cdc-halves-foodborne-illness-count-but-why-now/).
    Food Safety News needs to read USDA (and FDA and CDC) press releases just as carefully and skeptically as it does those from raw milk supporters because, even when factually correct, they can be misleading. And sometimes that is intentional.
    Finally, I have repeatedly written comments like this because the misuse and abuse of statistics is something that galls me. I’ve also been concerned that average readers of Food Safety News would be misled by them. I have repeatedly asked everyone at Food Safety News to be more careful but my concerns have obviously fallen on deaf ears. I simply cannot afford the time required to write these. I keep hoping against continually growing evidence that FSN’s professional journalists will have enough dedication to their profession that they will improve their accuracy by opening themselves to my critiques and investigating their own biases and those of their publisher, Bill Marler.
    For their sake and food safety regulation, I hope so.

  • Once again, Food Safety News has allowed its ubiquitous, anonymous commenter, ‚ÄúDoc Mudd,‚Äù to attempt to distract attention from a carefully reasoned and documented comment in direct violation of the policy supposedly established by FSN‚Äôs publisher, Bill Marler, on 2-22-11 in his ‚ÄúPublisher‚Äôs Platform: Can We All Get Along?‚Äù (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/02/publishers-platform-cant-we-all-just-get-along/).
    Once again, “Doc Mudd” has demonstrated her/his unwillingness to allow real scientific thinking to get in the way of making his/her point and merits repeated ad hominem attacks.
    Dr. Koo did in fact write that noroviruses “are the most common cause of foodborne disease worldwide;‚Äù however, as shown by my comment, Dr. Koo left out the adjective ‚Äúknown‚Äù before ‚Äúfoodborne disease.‚Äù The ‚Äúunspecified agents‚Äù in Scallan, et al‚Äôs study (Scallan) are almost entirely UNKNOWN pathogens. Scallan states in its first sentence under ‚ÄúMethods,‚Äù ‚ÄúWe defined unspecified agents as agents that cause acute gastroenteritis but that were not included in our estimate of foodborne illness caused by 31 major known pathogens.‚Äù As these ‚Äúunspecified agents‚Äù are estimated to cause over 4 times as many illnesses as the 31 major pathogens, obviously, they out number those caused by noroviruses.
    The second part of “Doc Mudd’s” quote (“In the U.S. NoV infections are responsible for more than two-thirds of all foodborne gastroenteritis outbreaks (Bresee, et al 2002)”), does not have any bearing on the total number of foodborne illnesses caused by norovirus. It only addresses the number of outbreaks (reported instances with 2 or more illnesses from the same vehicle) not cases.
    The last part of ‚ÄúDoc Mudd‚Äôs‚Äù quote (‚Äúand cause approximately 23 million cases each year (Mead, et al 1999).”) is the apex of her/his dissembling. Dr. Koo‚Äôs article was published on 7-22-10. At that point, Mead, et al 1999 was the accepted study. However, as ‚ÄúDoc Mudd‚Äù and Food Safety News well know, Scallan‚Äôs numbers were the long awaited update to Mead. Obviously, Dr. Koo would now use Scallan‚Äôs estimates not Mead‚Äôs.
    After having attempted to baffle you with his/her BS, “Doc Mudd” attempts to make fun of my knowledge of math with humor about the “new math” by Tom Lehrer.
    As I’m a 64 year old public school system graduate, “new math” came a long, long time after me. And, as my degree is in math from Davidson College and I spent a lot of my 35 year career in insurance teasing meaning out of data and statistics, I’ll happily compare my knowledge of the math involved in this criticism (i.e., none) with anyone.
    I thank Matt J. for his serious comment after “Doc Mudd’s.” I find it so sad that Food Safety News forced Matt J. to ignore the troll behavior of “Doc Mudd” to attempt to have a serious discussion of the article.
    It is clear to me that “Doc Mudd” violated the following posting rules (using his numbers) supposedly established by Bill Marler for Food Safety News’ website:
    1. Don’t be a jerk. Nobody likes jerks.
    3. Don’t be a troll. (Troll: Commenter who makes outrageous or provocative statements purely in order to derail discussion.) You know who you are.
    5. No personal attacks at the author or fellow commenter. Substance, people. Substance.
    6. Seriously, don’t be a jerk.
    Insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome. As a result, some might view my pointing out again and again that Food Safety News does NOT enforce its own posting rules is insanity. Do I really believe that Food Safety News will finally hear my pleas and stop this impediment to serious discussion of it articles? Not really. I would be pleasantly surprised just as I was when Bill supposedly set these posting rules up after my umpteenth request that he do so. However, I have continued making this comments as I regarded myself as Bill’s and Food Safety News’ friend and Bill had, apparently, heard me earlier repeated requests for establishing posting rules. A friend of person gives that person repeated opportunity to be what s/he proclaims him/herself to be.
    Now, I will do as the recovery movement recommends. I will allow Bill Marler and Food Safety News to do as they please on this without anymore criticism from me and simply hold them accountable for their misleading readers that they want to have their articles to engender serious discussion. Allowing “Doc Mudd” to repeatedly violate their posting rules shows they really don’t want serious discussions. I guess it aspires to being no more than another Marler Clark blog.
    As I wrote earlier, Bill Marler and Food Safety News don’t deserve any more comments from me. I will endeavor harder to not make any more comments on Food Safety News.

  • Doc Mudd

    Oh, lighten up, Harry.
    For pity’s sake your nitpicking over norovirus vs. unknown causes is neither here-nor-there. Norovirus deserves some further attention from researchers.
    Hey, don’t sweat it. Everyone makes errors. If it wasn’t the “new math”, maybe your abacas got knocked over or sumpthin’ – nowadays we call that a hard drive crash!
    Walk it off and get back in the game, old boy.

  • Once again, Food Safety News has allowed its ubiquitous, anonymous commenter, ‚ÄúDoc Mudd,‚Äù to attempt to distract attention from a carefully reasoned and documented comment in direct violation of the policy supposedly established by FSN‚Äôs publisher, Bill Marler, on 2-22-11 in his ‚ÄúPublisher‚Äôs Platform: Can We All Get Along?‚Äù (http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/02/publishers-platform-cant-we-all-just-get-along/).
    Once again, “Doc Mudd” has demonstrated her/his unwillingness to allow real scientific thinking to get in the way of making his/her point and merits repeated ad hominem attacks.
    Dr. Koo did in fact write that noroviruses “are the most common cause of foodborne disease worldwide;‚Äù however, as shown by my comment, Dr. Koo left out the adjective ‚Äúknown‚Äù before ‚Äúfoodborne disease.‚Äù The ‚Äúunspecified agents‚Äù in Scallan, et al‚Äôs study (Scallan) are almost entirely UNKNOWN pathogens. Scallan states in its first sentence under ‚ÄúMethods,‚Äù ‚ÄúWe defined unspecified agents as agents that cause acute gastroenteritis but that were not included in our estimate of foodborne illness caused by 31 major known pathogens.‚Äù As these ‚Äúunspecified agents‚Äù are estimated to cause over 4 times as many illnesses as the 31 major pathogens, obviously, they out number those caused by noroviruses.
    The second part of “Doc Mudd’s” quote (“In the U.S. NoV infections are responsible for more than two-thirds of all foodborne gastroenteritis outbreaks (Bresee, et al 2002)”), does not have any bearing on the total number of foodborne illnesses caused by norovirus. It only addresses the number of outbreaks (reported instances with 2 or more illnesses from the same vehicle) not cases.
    The last part of ‚ÄúDoc Mudd‚Äôs‚Äù quote (‚Äúand cause approximately 23 million cases each year (Mead, et al 1999).”) is the apex of her/his dissembling. Dr. Koo‚Äôs article was published on 7-22-10. At that point, Mead, et al 1999 was the accepted study. However, as ‚ÄúDoc Mudd‚Äù and Food Safety News well know, Scallan‚Äôs numbers were the long awaited update to Mead. Obviously, Dr. Koo would now use Scallan‚Äôs estimates not Mead‚Äôs.
    After having attempted to baffle you with his/her BS, “Doc Mudd” attempts to make fun of my knowledge of math with humor about the “new math” by Tom Lehrer.
    As I’m a 64 year old public school system graduate, “new math” came a long, long time after me. And, as my degree is in math from Davidson College and I spent a lot of my 35 year career in insurance teasing meaning out of data and statistics, I’ll happily compare my knowledge of the math involved in this criticism (i.e., none) with anyone.
    I thank Matt J. for his serious comment after “Doc Mudd’s.” I find it so sad that Food Safety News forced Matt J. to ignore the troll behavior of “Doc Mudd” to attempt to have a serious discussion of the article.
    It is clear to me that “Doc Mudd” violated the following posting rules (using his numbers) supposedly established by Bill Marler for Food Safety News’ website:
    1. Don’t be a jerk. Nobody likes jerks.
    3. Don’t be a troll. (Troll: Commenter who makes outrageous or provocative statements purely in order to derail discussion.) You know who you are.
    5. No personal attacks at the author or fellow commenter. Substance, people. Substance.
    6. Seriously, don’t be a jerk.
    Insanity is sometimes defined as doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome. As a result, some might view my pointing out again and again that Food Safety News does NOT enforce its own posting rules is insanity. Do I really believe that Food Safety News will finally hear my pleas and stop this impediment to serious discussion of it articles? Not really. I would be pleasantly surprised just as I was when Bill supposedly set these posting rules up after my umpteenth request that he do so. However, I have continued making this comments as I regarded myself as Bill’s and Food Safety News’ friend and Bill had, apparently, heard me earlier repeated requests for establishing posting rules. A friend of person gives that person repeated opportunity to be what s/he proclaims him/herself to be.
    Now, I will do as the recovery movement recommends. I will allow Bill Marler and Food Safety News to do as they please on this without anymore criticism from me and simply hold them accountable for their misleading readers that they want to have their articles to engender serious discussion. Allowing “Doc Mudd” to repeatedly violate their posting rules shows they really don’t want serious discussions. I guess it aspires to being no more than another Marler Clark blog.
    As I wrote earlier, Bill Marler and Food Safety News don’t deserve any more comments from me. I will endeavor harder to not make any more comments on Food Safety News.

  • federal microbiologist

    [amusement]
    It’s always fun to get a rise out of our favorite Comments Troll, ‘Doc Mudd’ !

  • Steve

    … I’m with Harry — the non-enforcement of the “rules” allows for the continuous derailing of discussion, personal attacks, shutting down of opinion from folks who don’t want to become besmirched and seriously belittles the stature of the venue…