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article imageThe high cost of norovirus infections on the global community

By Karen Graham     Apr 27, 2016 in Health
Norovirus infections cause 200,000 deaths and a global economic burden of around $60 billion each year. Most people will contract this highly contagious illness at least five times in their lifetime.
Noroviruses are the most common cause of sporadic cases and outbreaks of gastroenteritis across all age groups worldwide. In the United States, norovirus is estimated to cause 21 million illnesses, 71,000 hospitalizations, and 800 deaths annually.
Worldwide, according to Futurity, the virus actually sickens over 700 million people annually. To break down the global cost of the norovirus, roughly $4.2 billion in health care costs and $60.3 billion in societal costs are incurred.
A new study collection published in the online journal PLOS ONE gives us a first look at the economic burden of norovirus illnesses on a global scale. The virus isn't picky about who it infects, being widely prevalent in both wealthy and developing countries. The study suggests that with critical gaps in knowledge being filled, we will be closer to developing a much-needed vaccine.
Study leader Sarah M. Bartsch, a research associate at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, was quoted as saying, “You only seem to hear about it when people get sick on a cruise ship or at a restaurant, but norovirus is everywhere." She also points out in her study that the global economic burden of the disease is the result of illness in children under the age of five-years-old.
Another study in the collection, by Mans et. al, focused their investigation on 14 African countries and their findings show that norovirus case data in adults and older children is incomplete or often lacking. In Kenya, they found that the incidence of norovirus was about double that of wealthier countries such as the UK and U.S. where the incidence is about 1 in 5. This suggests an overall higher rate of infection in developing countries.
Studies from Allen et al, Fumian et al, and Lee Kim et al presented data on the molecular epidemiology of the norovirus in cases found in the UK, Malawi, Brazil, Australia and New Zealand. The GII.4 strain of norovirus was found to be the most prevalent strain in Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand, despite their geographically different locations.
The researchers hope their combined studies will help health officials to decide how best to use funds in intervention and control of the virus, including public education. Hand washing, proper food preparation, better food and water sources, and isolation of those who are sick.
This most interesting collection of studies, "The Global Burden of Norovirus & Prospects for Vaccine Development," was published in the online journal PLOS ONE on April 26, 2016.
More about Norovirus, economic burden, Health care, Developing countries, global community
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