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Childrens' Norovirus-Related Gastroenteritis Still a Burden

There are more than one million annual health care visits by youngsters with acute illness

WEDNESDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- Norovirus-associated illness is the leading cause of medically attended acute gastroenteritis in young children, according to a study published in the March 21 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Daniel C. Payne, Ph.D., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues conducted active surveillance for laboratory-confirmed cases of norovirus among children younger than 5 years of age with acute gastroenteritis in hospitals, emergency departments, and outpatient clinical settings in three U.S. counties (2009 to 2010). Billing records were examined to determine medical costs.

The researchers found that norovirus was detected in 21 percent of young children (278 of 1,295) seeking medical attention for acute gastroenteritis. In both 2009 and 2010, rotavirus was identified in 12 percent of children with acute gastroenteritis (152 of 1,295). For norovirus, the respective rates of hospitalization, emergency department visits, and outpatient visits were 8.6, 146.7, and 367.7 per 10,000 children younger than 5 years of age in 2009, and 5.8, 134.3, and 260.1 per 10,000 in 2010. The estimated cost of care per episode in 2009 was $3,918, $435, and $151, respectively. By extrapolating the data, it is estimated that, nationally, the average numbers of annual hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and outpatient visits due to norovirus infection in 2009 and 2010 among young U.S. children exceeded 14,000, 281,000, and 627,000, respectively, totaling more than $273 million in treatment costs each year.

"Since the introduction of rotavirus vaccines, norovirus has become the leading cause of medically attended acute gastroenteritis in U.S. children and is associated with nearly one million health care visits annually," the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies.

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