4 things to know about the international burden of norovirus

A recent comprehensive international report on the worldwide burden of norovirus was published Tuesday in PLOS Medicine. Here are four things to know about norovirus and its impact on the global population.

What is it? Norovirus is highly contagious and the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis, which is the inflammation of the stomach and/or intestines. Common symptoms are stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. It can be transmitted by food, water or physical contact with a contaminated surface.

Knowledge gaps. While evidence suggests that the international burden of norovirus is high, there are some critical gaps in the collective epidemiological knowledge of the virus. Norovirus is frequently found in the stool of healthy individuals, which complicates the interpretation of diagnostic results. Also, the current evidence available does not convey a complete understanding of the occurrence of natural norovirus immunity.

A global burden. Evidence suggests norovirus causes nearly 700 million infections, $60 billion in associated costs and more than 200,000 deaths a year. The virus impacts all fiscal and ethnic demographics. A new article from Forbes offers a natural disaster comparison, citing the $60 billion in norovirus costs as $15 billion more than the insurance payouts from Hurricane Katrina.

The possibility of vaccination. The report in PLOS Medicine states that norovirus is a unique target for vaccination for three central reasons. First, the broad reach of the virus makes the group of people who would benefit from a vaccine wide and diverse. Second, the sheer frequency at which infections occur makes the burden of the virus high, even though rates of severe outcomes are proportionately low. Third, the creation of a vaccine would coincide with further research already being conducted to better understand the human and fiscal costs associated with norovirus.

More articles on infection control: 
Harvard mumps outbreak persists: 40 cases confirmed 
6 confirmed measles cases in Tennessee outbreak 
Catheter 'alert' system changes color of urine when superbugs present

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