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Sapovirus Infection

Sapovirus Infection

5 February 2018

Causative agent

Sapovirus was first identified in an outbreak in Sapporo, Japan in 1977. Sapovirus is a single-stranded RNA virus that belongs to the family Caliciviridae. It has been detected in shellfish and environmental water samples. Sapovirus can cause acute gastroenteritis in children and adults. Gastroenteritis outbreaks due to sapovirus have been reported in various settings such as child care centres, kindergartens, nursing homes, restaurants and schools.

Clinical features

Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea, abdominal cramps, chills, headache, myalgia and malaise. Gastroenteritis symptoms are self-limiting and patients usually recover within a few days.

Mode of transmission

The primary mode of transmission is through the faecal-oral route. Sapovirus can be transmitted by food or water contaminated with the virus, by contact with the vomitus or faeces from infected persons or by contact with contaminated objects. Sapovirus shedding in faeces may continue for weeks after symptoms disappear.

Incubation period

The incubation period usually ranges from less than 1 day to 4 days.


Adequate fluids to prevent dehydration and supportive treatment should be provided.


No vaccine is available for sapovirus infection. As a general measure to prevent gastroenteritis, members of public are advised to:

Maintain good personal hygiene

  • Wash hands thoroughly with liquid soap and water before handling food or eating, and after using the toilet or handling vomitus or faecal matter.
  • Refrain from work or school, and seek medical advice if suffering from fever, vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • Exclude infected persons and asymptomatic carriers from handling food and from providing care to children, elderly and immunocompromised people.

Maintain good food hygiene

  • Adopt the 5 Keys to Food Safety in handling food, i.e. Choose (Choose safe raw materials); Clean (Keep hands and utensils clean); Separate (Separate raw and cooked food); Cook (Cook thoroughly); and Safe Temperature (Keep food at safe temperature) to prevent foodborne diseases.
  • Drink only boiled water from the mains or bottled drinks from reliable sources.
  • Avoid drinks with ice of unknown origin.
  • Purchase fresh food from hygienic and reliable sources. Do not patronise illegal hawkers.
  • Wash and peel fruit by yourself and avoid eating raw vegetables.
  • Cook all food, particularly shellfish, thoroughly before consumption.

*Please visit the website of Centre for Food Safety for more information on food safety.

Maintain good environmental hygiene

  • Maintain good indoor ventilation.
  • Cleanse vomitus/ faeces and disinfect the contaminated areas properly and immediately. Keep other people away from the contaminated areas during cleansing.
  • Wear gloves and a surgical mask while disposing of or handling vomitus and faeces, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Maintain proper sanitary facilities and drainage system.
  • Cleanse and disinfect toilets used by infected person and the soiled areas.