Foodborne viral infections

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The aim of the study was to provide an update on foodborne viral infections describing illness burden, the main aetiological agents (enteric viruses, hepatitis viruses and emerging and zoonotic viruses) and advances in virus detection in foods.

Recent findings

Norovirus (NoV) is the most common viral foodborne pathogen globally (125 million cases and 35 000 deaths). The role of the asymptomatic food handlers in contributing to NoV outbreaks is becoming increasingly clear, with up to one-quarter of outbreaks attributable to them. Handwashing with soap and water remains the best method for removing NoV from fingers. Risk assessment for transmission of emerging viruses through the food chain should include consideration of all means by which food could post a hazard, that is not just consumption. New technologies have demonstrated the widespread nature of viral contamination in the food chain, but this does not necessarily correlate with the risk of disease. Finally, understanding people's knowledge and behaviour is just as important as understanding virus characteristics and epidemiology when assessing risks of foodborne transmission.

Summary

The predominant viruses transmitted through food tend to be those for which humans are the natural hosts, so that effective control measures need to prevent exposure of foods to human faeces.

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