Norovirus sickens 1 million kids each year, highlighting need for vaccine

We hear about norovirus most often these days when there is an outbreak on a cruise ship. However, the infection is much more prevalent than that. Norovirus is responsible for 1 million doctor’s visits by children each year, costing $273 million to the United States and highlighting the need for a vaccine

According to Bloomberg, a recent report published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 1 in 278 children in the United States will be hospitalized for norovirus, commonly dubbed the stomach flu. In total, 1 in 14 children will visit an emergency room for the infection, and 1 in 6 children will visit a doctor – all before the age of five.

As TIME magazine reports, the data was obtained from 141,000 children younger than the age of five who were treated for acute gastroentitis between October 2008 and September 2010. Infants were more likely to be hospitalized than older children, with six- to 18-month-old babies making up 50 percent of the children who sought medical attention.

Researchers focused on the prevalence of norovirus and rotavirus. Not surprisingly, norovirus was significantly more common as a cause for acute gastroentitis than rotavirus. That is because there has been a vaccine on the market to combat rotavirus since 2006; GlaxoSmithKline issued their own vaccine to follow Merck’s version in 2008. There were twice as many norovirus infections as there were for rotavirus.

Currently, beyond plenty of rest and fluids, there is no treatment for norovirus. The condition is highly contagious, commonly spread from person to person or from contaminated food. For a person to become ill, they need to only come into contact with a few contaminated particles. That is not difficult when a person infected with norovirus disseminates millions of particles at a time.

The only method of prevention for the illness to wash your hands frequently. If you do become sick, it is also important to consume a lot of fluids to combat the vomiting and diarrhea. Otherwise, it can become easy to be dehydrated, which can turn lethal. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding food preparation for two to three days after the illness.

Source: Counsel & Heal