Noroviruses are a major cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks worldwide. Norovirus outbreaks frequently occur as epidemics which appear to be related to both genetic and environmental factors. This review considers recent progress in understanding these factors. The norovirus genome undergoes continuous change and this appears to be important in the persistence of the virus in the community. Studies on the common GII.4 genotype have shown that some norovirus outbreak epidemics involving this genotype are correlated with specific changes in the genome. In contrast to the growing understanding of the role of genetic factors in norovirus outbreak epidemics, the role of environmental factors is less well understood. Topics reviewed here include long term excretion of norovirus in some individuals, long term survivability of norovirus in the environment, the role of meteorological factors in the control of norovirus outbreaks and the possible zoonotic transmission of the virus.
Keywords: norovirus, outbreaks, epidemics, genetic factors, environmental factors