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Surveillance Network for Norovirus, USA | CDC EID - Volume 17, Number 8–August 2011

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Volume 17, Number 8–August 2011
Novel Surveillance Network for Norovirus Gastroenteritis Outbreaks, United States1

Everardo Vega, Leslie Barclay, Nicole Gregoricus, Kara Williams, David Lee, and Jan Vinjé
Comments to Author

Author affiliations: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA (E. Vega, L. Barclay, N. Gregoricus, J. Vinjé); and Atlanta Research and Education Foundation, Decatur, Georgia, USA (K. Williams, D. Lee)

Suggested citation for this article

CaliciNet, the outbreak surveillance network for noroviruses in the United States, was launched in March 2009. As of January 2011, twenty state and local health laboratories had been certified to submit norovirus sequences and epidemiologic outbreak data to CaliciNet. During the network's first year, 552 outbreaks were submitted to CaliciNet, of which 78 (14%) were associated with foodborne transmission. A total of 395 (72%) outbreaks were typed as GII.4, of which 298 (75%) belonged to a new variant, GII.4 New Orleans, which first emerged in October 2009. Analysis of the complete capsid and P2 region sequences confirmed that GII.4 New Orleans is distinct from previous GII.4 variants, including GII.4 Minerva (2006b).

Noroviruses are the primary cause of epidemic viral gastroenteritis and the leading cause of foodborne outbreaks in the United States (1–3). Although the course of disease is in most cases self-limiting, young, elderly, and immunocompromised persons are at risk for complications caused by severe vomiting and diarrhea (4–8). In addition to the clinical impact of norovirus disease, the economic effects in lost wages, time, and intervention procedures (e.g., clean-up costs and recalls) can be significant (9–11). Although norovirus outbreaks occur year-round, they are more common during the winter months (12–14).

Noroviruses are genetically classified into 5 genogroups, GI–GV, with GI and GII strains responsible for most human disease (2,15). GII viruses can be further divided into at least 19 genotypes, of which GII.4 is responsible for >85% of outbreaks (14,16), although other genotypes and viruses continue to circulate and cause sporadic disease in children (17–19). Over the past 15 years, new GII.4 variants have been identified; several have been associated with a global increase in the number of outbreaks (15). The last pandemic GII.4 variant, GII.4 2006b or GII.4 Minerva, was identified in late 2005/early 2006 and has been the predominant outbreak strain in the United States since then. The successive displacement of GII.4 variants suggests that population immunity is driving the evolution of GII.4 viruses (20,21), and the emergence of a new variant will cause an increase in the number of outbreaks in an immunologically naive population.

It is not fully understood why some GII.4 variants become pandemic whereas others do not. The combination of novel antigenic sites in protruding regions of the capsid (centered around amino acids 295 and 396) and the change or expansion of a susceptible population may be responsible for the emergence of pandemic variants (20,22). The latter theory has been supported by the discovery that different norovirus strains may have different histo–blood group antigen (HBGA) binding patterns and that nonsecretors are not susceptible to infection with certain genotypes or variants (23). Most mutations between genotypes and variants occur in the P2 region of the major capsid viral protein (VP), VP1, which contains the HBGA binding sites.

Since 2008, all 50 states have had the laboratory capacity for norovirus testing; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Calicivirus Laboratory (NCL) provides laboratory support to states that do not have in-house capacity for norovirus strain typing. Recent studies on the molecular epidemiology of norovirus in the US have been based on specimens from a subset of outbreaks that were submitted to CDC (13,24,25). To enhance and harmonize norovirus outbreak surveillance, CDC and its state partners have developed a national norovirus outbreak surveillance network, CaliciNet. CaliciNet was developed to improve standardized typing of norovirus outbreaks, assist in linking geographically different clusters of norovirus illness, allow rapid classification and identification of new norovirus strains, and establish a comprehensive strain surveillance network in the United States. In this article, we describe the CaliciNet network and report first-year results, including the identification of a new GII.4 norovirus variant.

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Suggested Citation for this Article

Vega E, Barclay L, Gregoricus N, Williams K, Lee D, Vinjé J. Novel surveillance network for norovirus gastroenteritis outbreaks, United States. Emerg Infect Dis [serial on the Internet]. 2011 Aug [date cited].

DOI: 10.3201/eid1708.101837

1Additional members of the CaliciNet participating laboratories who contributed data are listed at the end of this article.

Comments to the Authors

Please use the form below to submit correspondence to the authors or contact them at the following address:

Jan Vinjé, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Rd NE, Mailstop G04, Atlanta, GA 30333, USA; email:

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