December 10, 2023

Norovirus Leading Cause of Severe Gastroenteritis in Children

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released information about a new study that shows norovirus is the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis among children less than five who seek medical care. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Child Food PoisoningNorovirus caused almost 1 million pediatric medical visits for 2009 and 2010 in the United States. Dr. Daniel Payne, an epidemiologist in the Division of Viral Diseases at the CDC said, “Infants and young children are very susceptible to norovirus infections, which often result in a high risk of getting dehydrated from the sudden onset of intense vomiting and severe diarrhea. Our study estimates that 1 in 278 U.S. children will be hospitalized for norovirus illness by the time they turn 5 years of age. It is also estimated that about 1 in 14 children will visit an emergency room and 1 in 6 will receive outpatient care for norovirus infections.”

Norovirus is a very contagious virus and causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines. The study looked at more than 141,000 children under the age of five living in three U.S. counties. Lab testing confirmed norovirus was the cause of their illness. The estimated cost of hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and outpatient visits cost more than $273 million every year.

At the same time, medical visits for rotavirus illness have decreased, proving the success of the rotavirus vaccination program in the U.S. Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe gastroenteritis among children worldwide. The study shows that specific interventions to protect against norovirus in children should be given priority.

The best ways to reduce the risk of norovirus infection are through proper hand washing, safe food handling, and good hygiene. Anyone who is vomiting or has diarrhea should stay home and not prepare or handle food or drink for others. The virus is spread through person-to-person contact, touching contaminated surfaces, and eating contaminated food and water.

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