Disclosures: Lee reports no relevant financial disclosures.
July 29, 2020
2 min read
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Norovirus costs the US $10.6 billion annually, researchers estimate

Disclosures: Lee reports no relevant financial disclosures.
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Researchers estimated that the total annual economic burden of norovirus in the United States is $10.6 billion — “higher than other diseases ... that have received far more attention,” they wrote.

Sporadic cases — not outbreaks — account for more than 90% of the total annual cost, suggesting that “just detecting and controlling outbreaks is not enough and these numbers cannot be relied on to estimate what is really going on,” they wrote in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

“Norovirus will make the news here and there when there are outbreaks in places such as cruise ships and schools, but outbreaks aren't the only time that norovirus appears. There are sporadic cases in the community throughout the year,” Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA, professor of Health Policy and Management at the City University of New York and executive director of Public Health Computational and Operation Research, told Healio.

“Our previous study found that norovirus costs the world around $60 billion a year. So, we wanted to get a better sense of how it was costing the United States and how these costs may break down.”

Lee said the data “would give a better sense of the magnitude of the problems and how much potentially should be invested in developing new treatments for and ways to prevent norovirus infections because currently options are rather limited.”

Lee and colleagues developed a computational simulation model to quantify the clinical and economic burden of norovirus in the U.S. They found that a single case of norovirus in which a patient develops symptoms costs a median of $48 in direct medical costs and $416 in productivity losses for a total of $464 per case, Lee explained. Additionally, the median yearly cost of outbreaks was $7.6 million in direct medical costs and $165.3 million in productivity losses for a total of $173.5 million. Lee said the vast majority of costs were from lost productivity, such as people missing work.

“This study suggests that there needs to be a change in the way norovirus is viewed. Norovirus is not just an outbreak problem. It's not just a cruise ship virus. Most of the burden is from sporadic cases that occur throughout the year although the winter months have the highest burden,” Lee said. “Employers should be aware of this problem since it affects them with the resulting productivity losses. That means investing in ways to prevent infection. It also gives a sense of how much potentially should be invested in developing new treatments for and ways to prevent norovirus infections because currently options are rather limited.”