Norovirus has been determined to be the suspected cause of a large outbreak at Airbus in France in late 2023, according to public health officials.

The Loire-Atlantique regional health agency (ARS) believes norovirus was behind almost 700 people falling sick at the Airbus Atlantic Christmas lunch in mid-December. Findings are based on the clinical symptoms in patients and the time it took for them to appear.

Sick people reported suffering from nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea after the event in Montoir at the company’s restaurant. Testing of food leftovers was negative for norovirus. No detail was given on whether patients or food handlers had been tested.

The varied menu is said to have included a cheese plate, a starter with scallops, a foie gras terrine, beef in sauce, and a lobster dish.

Norovirus can quickly and easily spread through sick people and contaminated surfaces or through contaminated food and water. A person usually develops symptoms 12 to 48 hours after being exposed. Most people with norovirus illness get better within 1 to 3 days, but they can still spread the virus for another few days.

Seasonal spike linked to shellfish

Meanwhile, France has reported a number of outbreaks linked to bivalve mollusks with several shellfish areas closed since December 2023.

In Loire-Atlantique, a norovirus outbreak with 40 infections after eating oysters was recorded in December. In Ille-et-Vilaine, several cases of food poisoning were linked to oysters in January and the same situation occurred in Gironde in December.

Norovirus in oysters from France caused 15 people to fall sick in Sweden and two cases in Finland in January. In Denmark, 32 illnesses were recorded in December.

In France, actions after an outbreak include oyster bed closures for 28 days and weekly norovirus testing until the production area tests negative.

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