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New Virus: “Chunder From Down Under?”

  • January 15th, 2013
  • Posted by EUEditor

sydney-2012-nhsuk.jpg“Wotch out for the chunder from down under!”, British tabloids are screaming *; more prosaic but also to the point is this warning from the Eurosurveillance public health service:

“Healthcare institutions are advised to be prepared for a severe norovirus season.”

The gastro-enteric virus in question (picture), called Sydney 2012, first appeared in Australia in the latter part of last year.

The sickness is marked by diarrohea and a lot of vomiting, with other symptoms including headache and nausea; breaking out after one to three days incubation and continuing through the week.

It is not being rated more dangerous to health than other strains except that, especially because of the vomiting, it is highly contagious; likely to attack all members of a family or workplace where there is a sufferer. For the same reason, the vomiting, dehydration is particularly bad and adds to the severity of the illness.

Also a factor in the contagiousness and problems with managing the illness, is that the virus is new, a type that developed as a hybrid of two 2007 viruses originating in the Netherlands and Japan.

Those who have contracted Sydney 2012 are being urged to quarantine themselves to a lonely bed, use a separate toilet if available, and stay away from work, school, hospitals, or other places where people crowd in together, until having felt well again for a few days.

There are no vaccines or other specific protections; general hygiene including hand washing and avoidance of contaminated areas are rcommended.

Several thousand have had it in Australia since the last Southern Spring, most discomforting during the recent Christmas and New Year holiday period, which has seen a searing heatwave throughout the continent.

Some one million cases have been estimated in the United Kingdom, with similar numbers building up in Belgium, France, Denmark and Germany, as well as Japan and the United States – a rising pandemic.

barry-humphries.jpgThe “chunder down under” idea * comes from comedy in the 1970s when vomit was called “chunder” by young Australians, who would go to England for their working holiday, and throw up a lot after drinking too much beer. Chief afficianado of the genre was the incisive satirist, Barry Humphries, (see Mr Humphries as the Goblin King, in “The Hobbit”, film, 2012).

ecdc.jpgFootnote on Eurosurveillance: It is a weekly European peer-reviewed scientific journal devoted to the epidemiology, surveillance, prevention and control of communicable diseases, with a focus on topics relevant to Europe. It is part-funded by the European Commission, with other government agencies, and is produced by the  European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDPC) in Stockholm.


BBC News, London, “New strain of winter vomiting bug norovirus: Sydney 2012”, 9.1.13., (15.1.13).

Eurosurveillance, ECDPC, Stockholm,  “Indications for worldwide increased norovirus activity”, 3.1.13., (15.1.13).

Pictures, ecdpc