Three outbreaks of respiratory illness associated with human coronavirus HCoV-OC43 infection occurred in geographically unrelated aged-care facilities in Melbourne, Australia during August and September 2002. On clinical and epidemiological grounds the outbreaks were first thought to be caused by influenza virus. HCoV-OC43 was detected by RT–PCR in 16 out of 27 (59%) specimens and was the only virus detected at the time of sampling. Common clinical manifestations were cough (74%), rhinorrhoea (59%) and sore throat (53%). Attack rates and symptoms were similar in residents and staff across the facilities. HCoV-OC43 was also detected in surveillance and diagnostic respiratory samples in the same months. These outbreaks establish this virus as a cause of morbidity in aged-care facilities and add to increasing evidence of the significance of coronavirus infections.
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