Press Releases - 2002

NDSC Confirms Cases of Small Round Structured Virus (SRSV)

The National Disease Surveillance Centre confirms cases of the Small Round Structured Virus (SRSV) also known as the Norwalk-like virus and winter vomiting disease were isolated in Irish passengers returning from ski holidays in Andorra. The Andorran authorities have been notified of this illness among Irish passengers returning from the ski resort.

To date, Irish passengers on three return flights from Toulouse experienced symptoms such as nausea, projectile vomiting and/ or diarrhoea which suggested that a virus such as NLV (Norwalk-like Virus) was the likely causative organism. Preliminary investigation has shown that 32% of passengers on two flights returning from Toulouse on 27 January 2002 had been ill with these symptoms, either during their holiday or on the plane journey home. Similarly, initial results indicate that 25% of passengers on a return flight from Toulouse on 31 March 2002 had been ill during their stay in Andorra.

Irish tourists visiting Andorra are being advised not to drink the local water and to use only bottled water. Bottled water should also be used when brushing teeth.

Winter vomiting disease is caused by viruses known as Small Round Structured Viruses (SRSV) or Norwalk-like Viruses (NLVs). They usually cause short-lasting outbreaks but can be extremely infectious. Contaminated oysters and water are important vehicles of transmission - early investigation indicates that much of the illness in Andorra was associated with water. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and abdominal pain. Headache and low-grade fever are not uncommon. Recovery is usually within 2-3 days without serious or long-term health effects.

World TB Day

In the year 2000 the TB (tuberculosis) incidence rate recorded in Ireland was at its lowest ever level. 396 cases of TB were recorded giving an incidence rate of 10.9/100,000 population. Although this rate does fluctuate from year to year, overall trends suggest that the disease continues to decline in Ireland.

Dr Darina O'Flanagan, Director of the National Disease Surveillance Centre said: "Although TB rates in Ireland are at a low level, TB remains a huge problem worldwide. It is very important to remain vigilant in Ireland and to continue our screening and treatment programmes to ensure that our rates remain low."

Worldwide, TB kills two million people every year. Someone in the world is newly infected with TB every second. It is estimated that between the years 2000 and 2020 nearly one billion people will be newly infected with TB, 200 million people will get sick and 35 million people will die if TB control worldwide is not strengthened.

Possibility of Heroin Contamination

Following initial reports in the UK, the NDSC wishes to draw attention to the possible contamination of batches of heroin in Ireland and advises all heroin users to be aware of this possibility and to seek immediate medical attention if they develop any unusual symptoms such as blurred vision, difficulty swallowing, speech paralysis and breathing problems. Drug users with these symptoms should immediately seek medical help.

Public health authorities in the UK are investigating four suspected cases of wound botulism, possibly associated with injecting heroin use.(1) There have been no reports of similar illness in drug users in Ireland but in view of the uncertainty about heroin distribution patterns, the NDSC advises that the possibility of cases occurring here cannot be ruled out.

Botulism is a rare condition which is caused by a botulinum toxin, which is a poison, produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. The bacterium is common in the soil in the form of spores.  More than 90% of cases are treated successfully but some prove fatal. 

As a precautionary measure, the NDSC advises drug users to try to use as little citric acid as possible and refrain from sharing needles. 

(1) Suspected cases include one in Scotland and three in England




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