Diarrhea bug found in seafood in southern Vietnam

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A very contagious virus that causes diarrhea and vomiting has been found in seafood sold at markets in Ho Chi Minh City, news website Kienthuc quoted a survey as saying on December 14.

The survey, conducted by the HCMC Institute of Hygiene and Public Health and the University of Medicine and Pharmacy, found that 30 percent of 40 samples were contaminated with one of the five types of noroviruses, according to the news report.

Oysters had the highest rate of contamination with four out of five samples tested containing the virus, including one that had two types of the virus, it said. Researchers took five samples for each of eight species, including clams and blood cockles, it added.

Speaking to Kienthuc, Dr. Pham Hung Van from the university said noroviruses are the main cause of acute gastroenteritis among adults and children with symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

It can be transmitted through food, drink, air and from human to human, he said, adding that even though seafood is cooked, one can become infected with the virus, if bowls and cookers are not hygienic.

In fact, the virus is an "important" reason for diarrhea outbreaks, said Dr. Nguyen Van Trang, representative of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology. But, she also stressed that it could hardly be considered an epidemic.

Adults will recover after one or two days, but affected children can die if they are not given enough water to rehydrate them, Trang said.

According to Kienthuc, its survey at two markets in District 1 and Go Vap District found that oysters and clams that are usually eaten raw like blood cockles are consumed a lot there, especially during weekends.

Another survey at some residential areas in Go Vap and District 12 found that up to 97 percent of interviewees said they prefer seafood to meat, and 55 percent of the seafood lovers said they love eating it raw, the news report said.

Every year more than 267 million people are affected by noroviruses across the world, it quoted the HCMC Institute of Hygiene and Public Health as saying.

In the US, over 20 million cases of acute gastroenteritis caused by the viruses are reported each year, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on its website. It is also estimated to result in over 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths annually in that country.

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