Norovirus Now Primary Cause Of ‘Stomach Bug’ In Children
March 22, 2013

Children’s ‘Stomach Bug’ Now Primarily Caused By Norovirus, Says CDC

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A new study has shown that norovirus is now the primary cause of acute gastroenteritis, or the ℠stomach bug,´ among children under five years of age who seek medical treatment for the condition, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Thursday.

Gastroenteritis involves the inflammation of the stomach and small intestine, and is typically caused by one of several different types of viruses. Also commonly known as the ℠stomach virus´ or ℠stomach flu,´ gastroenteritis often results in a combination of vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal cramping.

The authors of the paper, which appears in the latest edition of The New England Journal of Medicine, tracked over 141,000 infants and young children suffering from the illness from October 20o8 through September 2010. The subjects lived in three different US counties, and their specimens underwent laboratory testing to determine whether norovirus or another type of virus was present.

According to the CDC, norovirus was found in 21 percent (278) of the 1,295 confirmed cases of acute gastroenteritis. Rotavirus, normally the most common cause of the stomach bug in children, was only found in 12 percent (152) of the cases. Nearly half of the medical care visits linked to norovirus infections were in children between the ages of six and 18 months, and infants to one-year-old youngsters were more likely to be hospitalized than older children.

Furthermore, the health organization reported that norovirus was responsible for nearly one million pediatric medical in the US in 2009 and 2010, and that the overall rates of norovirus in emergency rooms and outpatient offices were at least 20 and perhaps up to 40 times higher than hospitalization rates.

“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,” explained Dr. Daniel Payne, an epidemiologist in the CDC´s Division of Viral Diseases. “Our study estimates that 1 in 278 US 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,” he added. “Our study confirmed that medical visits for rotavirus illness have decreased. Also, our study reinforces the success of the US rotavirus vaccination program and also emphasize the value of specific interventions to protect against norovirus illness.”

The researchers estimate that in 2009 and 2012, there were approximately 14,000 hospitalizations, 281,000 emergency room visits, and 627,000 outpatient visits due to norovirus illness in children under the age of five — resulting in an estimated annual treatment cost of more than $270 million. The CDC reports that norovirus vaccines are currently in development for patients most at risk, including young children.

“Each year, more than 21 million people in the United States get infected with norovirus and develop acute gastroenteritis, and approximately 800 people die,” the CDC said. “Young children and elderly people are more likely to suffer from severe norovirus infections.”

“The virus spreads primarily through close contact with infected people, such as caring for someone who is ill. It also spreads through contaminated food, water and hard surfaces,” they added. “The best ways to reduce the risk of norovirus infection are through proper hand washing, safe food handling, and good hygiene.”