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Taiwanese tourists visiting South Korea hit by norovirus

TAIPEI -- A recent diarrhea outbreak among Taiwanese tourists in South Korea was caused by a norovirus infection, a highly contagious viral illness, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Saturday.

The CDC said it has notified South Korean health authorities to investigate the matter and asked travel agencies to change the meals they arrange for their customers.

The CDC recently received reports from the Tourism Bureau and local travel agencies that members of 14 Taiwanese tourist groups that visited South Korea developed diarrhea and gastroenteritis.

An examination of the tourists who still showed the symptoms found that of 36 specimens from 28 people, four tested positive for the norovirus, while 17 were negative and 15 were still being tested, the CDC said.

The agency tracked 412 tourists from the 14 groups and found that 246 of them had developed such symptoms as diarrhea, stomach aches and nausea.

Authorities in Seoul had also tested 10 Taiwanese tourists who sought medical treatment there and discovered the presence of the virus, the CDC said.

The outbreak among the first Taiwanese tour groups to fell ill in late December was traced to food poisoning, with people in two groups reporting symptoms after eating roast pork at a big restaurant near Seoul.

The virus is usually transmitted by fecally contaminated food or water, by person-to-person contact, and by aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces.

The disease is usually self-limiting, lasting between one and 10 days, with severe complications rare.

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