The Impact of Norovirus on the Portuguese Army’s Effectiveness

Research Paper Title

Country-wide surveillance of norovirus outbreaks in the Portuguese Army, 2015-2017.


Gastrointestinal infections are among the most common foodborne and waterborne diseases in military populations, with direct implications in operational efficiency and force readiness. Through the surveillance system of reportable acute gastrointestinal illness in the Portuguese Army, four norovirus outbreaks were identified between October 2015 and October 2017 in mainland Portugal and the Azores archipelago. The present study documents the epidemiological, clinical and laboratory investigations of these norovirus outbreaks.


Cases were investigated and epidemiological questionnaires were distributed to all soldiers in each military setting where the outbreaks occurred. Stool samples from soldiers with acute gastroenteritis illness were collected and screened for common enteropathogenic agents. Food and water samples served on the settings were also collected for microbiological investigation. Norovirus-positive samples were further characterised by sequence analysis using a public automated genotyping tool.


The four outbreaks affected a total of 99 soldiers among the 618 stationed on base units and in a military exercise. A total of 27 soldiers provided a stool sample, of which 20 were positive for norovirus by real-time PCR. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the noroviruses involved were all genogroup II, namely GII.17, GII.Pe-GII.4 Sydney 2012, GII.P2-GII.2 and GII.P16-GII.2. Of note, 30 soldiers had to receive treatment at the military hospital due to severity of symptoms.


In this short, two-year surveillance period, a total of four norovirus gastroenteritis outbreaks were detected in the Portuguese Army which caused a considerable morbidity, showing once again the impact of norovirus on Army effectiveness and force readiness.


Lopes-João, A., Mesquita, J.R., de Sousa, R., Oleastro, M., Silva, C., Penha-Gonçalves, C. & Nascimento, M.S.J. (2018) Country-wide surveillance of norovirus outbreaks in the Portuguese Army, 2015-2017. Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps. pii: jramc-2018-000991. doi: 10.1136/jramc-2018-000991. [Epub ahead of print].


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