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Waterborne outbreak of gastroenteritis on the KwaZulu-Natal Coast, South Africa, December 2016/January 2017

  • P. G. Sekwadi (a1), K. G. Ravhuhali (a1), A. Mosam (a2), V. Essel (a3), G. M. Ntshoe (a3), A. M. Shonhiwa (a3), K. McCarthy (a3), J. Mans (a4), M. B. Taylor (a4), N. A. Page (a3) (a4) and N. Govender (a3)...
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.


An unexpected increase in gastroenteritis cases was reported by healthcare workers on the KwaZulu-Natal Coast, South Africa, January 2017 with >600 cases seen over a 3-week period. A case–control study was conducted to identify the source and risk factors associated with the outbreak so as to recommend control and prevention measures. Record review identified cases and controls and structured-telephonic interviews were conducted to obtain exposure history. Stool specimens were collected from 20 cases along with environmental samples and both screened for enteric pathogens. A total of 126 cases and 62 controls were included in the analysis. The odds of developing gastroenteritis were 6.0 times greater among holiday makers than residents (95% confidence interval (CI) 2.0–17.7). Swimming in the lagoon increased the odds of developing gastroenteritis by 3.3 times (95% CI 1.06–10.38). Lagoon water samples tested positive for norovirus (NoV) GI.6, GII.3 and GII.6, astrovirus and rotavirus. Eleven (55%) stool specimens were positive for NoV with eight genotyped as GI.1 (n = 2), GI.5 (n = 3), GI.6 (n = 2), and GI.7 (n = 1). A reported sewage contamination event impacting the lagoon was the likely source with person-to-person spread perpetuating the outbreak. Restriction to swimming in the lagoon was apparently ineffective at preventing the outbreak, possibly due to inadequate enforcement, communication and signage strategies.

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Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: P. G. Sekwadi, E-mail:;


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