Viruses, especially norovirus and hepatitis A, are an important cause of foodborne diseases. Viral contamination of food occurs through contact with infected persons, e.g. food handlers.
Food contaminated with viruses can trigger dangerous infections in humans ranging from mild diarrheal illness to severe hepatitis. Foods that are handled manually and are not processed before consumption are at particular risk of viral contamination. The identification of viruses is an important part of food safety management and can be performed with molecular biological systems, e.g. the highly specific real-time PCR kits of the SureFast® PATHOGEN product line.
The hepatitis A virus can trigger serious infections. The main symptom is an infection of the liver with symptoms such as gastrointestinal complaints, fever or skin rash. The disease is mostly transmitted through contaminated drinking water (even ice cubes), contaminated food (mainly mussels, oysters, fruit and vegetables) or due to a smear infection.
Since the outbreak of the avian plague (also known as bird flu, avian influenza or HPAI) caused by the H5N8 virus, influenza has come to the fore of attention again. In addition to H5, the influenza subtypes such as H7 and H9 are of importance. Not all influenza subtypes are pathogenic for humans, many however, lead to serious illnesses, e.g. in chickens and pigs, which can result in significant economic loss. Therefore, it is very important to screen the different influenza viruses.
Noroviruses are responsible for more than 90 % of the non-bacterial gastroenteritis cases because they are extremely environmentally stable. Particularly in community facilities, e.g. hospitals, nursing homes and health care facilities, noroviruses can cause gastroenteritis outbreaks, which have the potential to be significant. Symptoms of a norovirus illness include vomiting, diarrhea and nausea. Diseases can develop throughout the whole year. However, an accumulation of diseases can be observed in the winter months (“winter vomiting disease”). The disease can be transmitted directly from human to human or indirectly through contaminated areas, objects, food (e.g. mussels, fruits and vegetables) or water. The minimum infectious dose amounts to 10 – 100 viral particles.
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