Category Archives: COVID-19

France Research – Acute gastroenteritis: review of the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 winter seasons

Sante Publique

Every year, an increase in acute gastroenteritis (AGE) is observed caused mainly by the circulation of noroviruses and rotaviruses. Noroviruses are responsible for AGE in people of all ages, while rotaviruses mainly affect children under 5 years of age. 

During the winter season, Public Health France monitors, with its network of partners , the epidemiological evolution of acute gastroenteritis and publishes weekly national and regional epidemiological bulletins on its website . These data are also made available as open data on Géodes .

Santé publique France is today publishing the winter monitoring report covering the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 seasons in mainland France and recalls the simple actions to take to limit the risk of contamination.

What are the highlights of the last two seasons?

2020-2021: a season marked by a historically low level of activity

The low level of activity observed from March 2020 (end of the 2019-2020 season), in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, continued during the 2020-2021 season. In city medicine or in hospital emergency departments, activity remained relatively stable and lower than the years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in all metropolitan areas. 

A return to activity comparable to pre-COVID seasons during winter 2021-2022

The activity levels recorded throughout the 2021-2022 season were again comparable to those observed during the pre-COVID seasons. In hospital emergencies, activity for acute gastroenteritis remained close to historical maximums, from December 2021 to April 2022. Consultations at SOS Médecins were similar to the data observed before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research – Evaluating the food safety risk of online food delivery during the pandemic

Food Safety News

World Universities Network researchers have investigated the food safety risk of online food delivery platforms against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic in Taiwan

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in demand for online food delivery services for everything, from groceries to cooked meals around the world, including in the United States. The food safety risk of so much food being delivered this way has gone largely unexplored.

Researchers in Taiwan, however, have investigated the food safety literacy of both consumers and proprietors of online food delivery services during the pandemic in Taiwan.

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the enforcement of lockdowns and shelter-in-place policies across the world. As a consequence, there was also an increase in the use of online shopping and online food delivery services.

The use of online food delivery services was so widespread, that in Taiwan, about 56 percent of the population has used these services during the pandemic. From fruits and vegetables to snacks and cooked meals, food delivery services offer a wide range of foods to consumers. But along with the improved convenience and access to food, these foods can also prove a risk in case they are undercooked, or if appropriate hygiene and temperature control is not maintained during their transport and preparation.

England – Differential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on laboratory reporting of Norovirus and Campylobacter in England: A modelling approach


CDC Campy

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted surveillance activities for multiple pathogens. Since March 2020, there was a decline in the number of reports of norovirus and Campylobacter recorded by England’s national laboratory surveillance system. The aim is to estimate and compare the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on norovirus and Campylobacter surveillance data in England.

Norovirus: What to do if you catch it and helping to stop the spread


Norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, is a stomach bug that causes sickness and diarrhoea. Following lower levels than normal throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have started to see an increase in norovirus activity as we head into the winter period.

Norovirus is able to spread easily through communities and so outbreaks are common in settings where individuals have close contact such as hospitals, care homes, schools and nurseries.

For most people this is an unpleasant, short-lived illness and they make a full recovery within 2-3 days without needing any medicine. However, some groups, including young children, the elderly or those with weakened immunity, are at risk of suffering more serious and prolonged illness which may require medical treatment.

Stopping the spread

Norovirus is easily transmitted through contact with people with the infection and any surfaces or objects which have been contaminated with the virus. Symptoms include sudden onset of nausea, projectile vomiting and diarrhoea but can also include a high temperature, abdominal pain and aching limbs.

The incubation period of norovirus is 12-48 hours, which is the time between catching the virus and developing symptoms. Individuals are most infectious when symptomatic, but it is possible to pass on norovirus or shed the virus, thereby contaminating surfaces, objects or even food, both before developing symptoms and after symptoms have stopped.

Good hand hygiene is important to stop norovirus spreading. To avoid catching norovirus or passing it on to others wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and warm water. This is most important following an episode of illness, after using the toilet, before eating or preparing food as well as cleaning up vomit or diarrhoea. Alcohol-based hand sanitisers are not effective against norovirus.

Diarrhoea and vomiting? There is no specific cure for stomach bugs such as Norovirus. Visit: for advice. Icon of a water bottle. Stay hydrated. Icon of pills. Take paracetamol when needed. Icon of hands washing. Prvent the spread. Icon of a house with a clock saying 48 hours. Stay at home for two days after symptoms clear.

Research – Impact of COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical interventions on the extent of Norovirus contamination in oyster production areas in Ireland during winter 2020/21

Journal of Food Protection

A significant decrease in norovirus prevalence and concentration was observed in oyster production areas in Ireland during winter 2020/21.  Oyster production areas impacted by human wastewater discharges that were under-going norovirus surveillance since 2018 were investigated. Samples collected in the winter seasons of 2018/19 and 2019/20, prior to when the COVID-19 pandemic interventions were applied, showed a prevalence of 94.3% and 96.6% respectively and geometric mean concentrations of 533 and 323 genome copies per gram (gcg -1 ) respectively. These values decreased significantly during the winter of 2020/21 (prevalence of 63.2% and geometric concentration of <LOQ) coinciding with the control measures to mitigate the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. Divergence between norovirus GI and GII prevalence and concentrations was observed over the three year monitoring period. Norovirus GII was the dominant genogroup detected in winter 2020/21 with over half of samples positive although concentrations detected were significantly lower than pre-pandemic winters with a geometric mean concentration of <LOQ.

Scotland – COVID-19 Guidance for Food Business Operators and Their Employees


Food Standard Scotland’s guidance on COVID-19 for food businesses was first published in April 2020, and has been continually updated since then to take account of new evidence, changes to public health advice and the introduction of mandatory mitigation measures needed to control the spread of the virus.

With the arrival of the new Omicron variant, businesses should strengthen compliance with current protection measures and make an extra effort to do so from now through the festive period and beyond.

Since movement beyond level 0, food businesses have been following a baseline set of mitigation measures that was retained across all sectors. With the arrival of the new variant, food businesses are being referred to the updated Scottish Government’s general safer workplaces guidance which aims to further support businesses in controlling the risks of COVID-19. This guidance is for all businesses and workplaces and provides advice on measures that should be taken to reduce risk and create a safe environment for customers and staff.

To assist food businesses in translating the measures in the Scottish Government safer workplaces guidance, FSS has produced a risk assessment tool which will support FBOs in identifying and documenting the actions they need to take to prevent the spread of COVID-19, whilst maintaining an effective Food Safety Management System (FSMS). The tool provides a way of allowing all FBOs to document the measures they have taken, and demonstrate that these are being maintained on an on-going basis to ensure their staff and customers are protected from the risks of COVID-19.

FSS has also produced guidance for FBOs on the investigation of COVID-19 outbreaks. This has been developed in collaboration with Public Health Scotland (PHS) which aims to help food businesses understand how decisions will be taken when an outbreak of COVID-19 is identified in their workforce. This guidance is split into two main sections which describes what FBOs are expected to know in relation to controlling COVID-19 in the workplace, and how to prepare for an IMT.

This guidance package is essential for all food businesses operating throughout the current stage of the pandemic. Using the resources supplied by FSS and Scottish Government will also support FBOs in engaging with their employees on the management of COVID-19 risks to ensure a safe working environment, in accordance with the joint statement on ‘fair work expectations during the transition out of lockdown’ signed by The Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Fair Work & Culture, CoSLA, the Institute of Directors and Scottish Council for Development & Industry, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the STUC. All employers are asked to reflect on and act in accordance with the Statement as the economy re-opens and to help progress the ambition shared by the Scottish Government and the Fair Work Convention for Scotland to become a Fair Work Nation.

It is important to note that this guidance package will continue to be reviewed regularly in line with Scottish Government’s review of COVID-19 restrictions, as well as emerging evidence and any further changes to public health advice.

Research – Food Handling Concerns and Practices at-Home during the COVID-19 Pandemic by Food Security Status

Journal of Food Protection

There is limited examination about COVID-19-related food handling concerns and practices that cause chemical or microbial contamination and illness, particularly among those with food insecurity. We investigated consumer food handling concerns and practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether they differed by food insecurity status. An online survey was distributed among Chicago, Illinois residents between July 15-August 21, 2020 (N=437). Independent t-tests and Fisher’s Exact tests were used to identify differences in food handling concerns and practices between those with and without food insecurity (alpha=0.05). Survey items included questions about food handling practices that were considered safe or neutral (i.e., washing hands and produce with water, sanitizing food packaging) and unsafe (i.e., using cleaning agents to wash foods, leaving perishable foods outside) using 5-point Likert-style scales or categorical responses (i.e., yes, no). Participant responses fell between “slightly” and “somewhat” concerned about contracting COVID-19 from food and food packaging (mean ± SE: 2.7±0.1). While participants reported washing their hands before eating and preparing foods at least “most of the time” (mean ± SE: 4.4 ± 0.0 and 4.5 ± 0.0, respectively), only one-third engaged in unsafe practices. The majority of participants (68%) indicated that they altered food handling practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic and received information about food safety from social media (61%).  When investigating differences in concerns and practices by food insecurity status, food insecure participants were more concerned about COVID-19 foodborne transmission for all food items (ps<0.0001) and more frequently performed unsafe based food handling practices than those with food security (ps<0.0001). Results from this study suggest more investigation is needed to understand barriers to safe food handling knowledge and practices, particularly among those with food insecurity.

Information – WHO and EU Commission publish coronavirus food safety advice

Food Safety News

The World Health Organization (WHO) and European Commission have published separate guidance about coronavirus and food safety.

The WHO interim guidance for food businesses

The European Commission published a Q+A on COVID-19 and food safety

Research – COVID-19 expert explains what soap does to SARS-CoV-2 virus

Mayo Clinic

Your hand has oils on it, and viruses stick to that oil. They have an electrostatic charge to them. But when you’re washing with soap, soap has things that decrease surface tension in them so you are physically rubbing by friction and washing away that virus. It is the most effective thing we know to do. That’s why surgeons, for example, scrub their hands so very carefully before they go into an OR. It works, and it works really well.

Research – Why health experts aren’t warning about Coronavirus in food


Chicken with Salmonella can make you sick. So can romaine lettuce with E. coli and buffets with lurking Norovirus. So why aren’t health officials warning people about eating food contaminated with the new Coronavirus?

The answer has to do with the varying paths organisms take to make people sick.

Respiratory viruses like the new Coronavirus generally attach to cells in places like the lungs. Germs like Norovirus and Salmonella can survive the acid in stomachs, then multiply after attaching to cells inside people’s guts.

“Specializing in what tissues to attach to is typically part of the disease’s strategy to cause illness,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC and other experts note that the virus is new and still being studied. But they say there’s no evidence yet that COVID-19 sickens people through their digestive systems, though the virus has been detected in the faeces of infected people.

How these germs spread also differs.

Respiratory viruses like the flu and the new Coronavirus spread mainly through person-to-person contact and air droplets from coughing, sneezing or other flying saliva.