Norovirus is a seriously contagious virus that can infect anyone, according to Centers for Disease Control. You can get it from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. Additionally, ample research says it can be transmitted through the air. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed. This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up. These symptoms can be serious for some people, especially young children and older adults, the most vulnerable among us.
Norovirus can have significant economic impact, too. Global Economic Burden of Norovirus Gastroenteritis is a study at PLOS One that “developed a computational simulation model to estimate the economic burden of Norovirus in every country/area (233 total) stratified by World Health Organization region and globally, from the health system and societal perspectives. We considered direct costs of illness (e.g., clinic visits and hospitalization) and productivity losses.” It says that globally, Norovirus resulted in a total of $4.2 billion (95% UI: $3.2–5.7 billion) in direct health system costs and $60.3 billion (95% UI: $44.4–83.4 billion) in societal costs per year. In part it concludes that “the total economic burden is greatest in young children but the highest cost per illness is among older age groups in some regions. These large costs overwhelmingly are from productivity losses resulting from acute illness. . . . Our findings can help identify which age group(s) and/or geographic regions may benefit the most from interventions.”
NoroCORE Food Virology at YouTube is an informative piece that takes a look at food-borne Norovirus illness. NoroCORE and the Perfect Pathogen: USDA-NIFA Efforts to Control Norovirus is a related piece at Contagion Live that reports Norovirus is the leading cause of food-borne illness in the United States, with 5 million of the reported 21 million annual cases linked to contaminated foods. The cost of illness is estimated to be billions of dollars per year.
‘Cruise Ship’ Norovirus Bug Can Spread by Air, Study Finds is a piece at U.S. News and World Report discusses Norovirus and its connection to a series of cruise ship illness. It cites research that finds Norovirus can spread through the air and infect people several feet away.
Norovirus GII.4 Detection in Environmental Samples from Patient Rooms during Nosocomial Outbreaks explores transmission, including through fecal-oral vectors as well as airborne transmission through aerosolized vomitus.
The Public Library of Science (PLOS) recently did a collection of studies on Norovirus and estimated cost of the virus at $60 billion annually. Norovirus is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans.
The Global Burden of Norovirus & Prospects for Vaccine Development notes that “each year, Norovirus causes over 200,000 deaths. A highly contagious virus that most people will contract 5 times in their lifetime, the most serious outcomes of the disease – hospitalization and death – are far more common among children and the elderly, and in low and middle income countries. In this PLOS Collection global Norovirus experts fill critical knowledge gaps and provide key information to further development of a much-needed vaccine.” The series of studies are wide-ranging and are worth the read.
- Every month we read about an outbreak on a cruise ship or in another place where people gather. This bug has no vaccine and can be transmitted through the air, water, food and contaminated surfaces. Passengers recount ‘disappointment’ aboard cruise ship hit by virus offers some firsthand experiences with the bug on a cruise ship.
- The viruses responsible for 50% of cases of gastroenteritis can be spread by air (you might need to hit the translate button on your browser or at top of the story) says that “Noroviruses, a group of viruses responsible for over 50% of global gastroenteritis cases, can spread by air up to several meters from an infected person according to a new study by Université Laval researchers. The discovery, details of which are presented in the latest issue ofClinical Infectious Diseases, suggests that measures applied in hospitals during gastroenteritis outbreaks may be insufficient to effectively contain this kind of infection.”
- A YouTube piece titled “The Vomiting Machine” features Grace Tung Thompson, Ph.D., who demonstrates the vomiting machine she used to study aerosolization of virus particles during a vomiting event. Vomiting is a hallmark symptom of Norovirus and plays a role in Norovirus transmission. Grace recently graduated from the Jaykus Laboratory at North Carolina State University. It is a short piece that is worth viewing, although it neglects to mention the airborne aspects of Norovirus.
Any effective environmental program for infection control needs to address air, hands and all surfaces. When gaps are left we expose ourselves to infection.
Norovirus is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans, affecting all ages. It generally is transmitted person-to-person, fecally through contaminated food/water or via aerosolization of the virus and subsequent contamination of surfaces. Reports list the number affected each year at 2.5 million and up, causing 200,000 deaths worldwide. Those in developing countries and the very young and old are most likely to be susceptible.
Below are links to some articles and studies that discuss – among other things – prevention, spread and those who are most susceptible to Norovirus. They are worth taking a look at as we head into prime season for gastroenteritis.