Norovirus outbreak in Ilirska Bistrica not caused by food

Ilirska Bistrica – After reports surfaced in December about a norovirus outbreak in the Ilirska Bistrica area in south-western Slovenia, further investigation into the cause of the infections has now revealed that it was not meat, as first suspected, but rather a contact transmission via packaging, health authorities said.

The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), the Food Safety Administration and the National Laboratory of Health, Environment and Food (NLZOH) said on Thursday that their investigation into the outbreak was completed.

An infectious disease was detected in the area around Ilirska Bistrica between 25 and 30 December 2021, as 123 persons fell ill with symptoms of acute gastroenterocolitis. The norovirus was isolated as the cause in nine samples.

At first, it was suspected that the cause of the outbreak could be meat from a local butcher shop, so the authorities carried out thorough health and sanitary inspections, and examined samples of meat, which turned out to be of unimpaired quality.

“This suggests that the infections were not caused by food, but rather by contact transmission, probably via packaging that came into contact with work surfaces, especially those touched by customers,” the NIJZ said.

It also did not rule out the possibility of previous infections in people attending family celebrations or holiday gatherings, who may have then brought the virus into their own homes.

The butcher’s shop in Ilirska Bistrica was subjected to a stricter hygiene regime before reopening. No new infections have been detected since then.