While norovirus is often linked in the news to outbreaks on cruise ships, the highly contagious stomach bug sickens nearly 700 million around the world every year and results in roughly $4.2 billion in health care costs and $60.3 billion in societal costs annually, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests.
The findings, published April 26 in PLOS ONE, are believed to be the first to look at the global economic burden of norovirus, which is common in both wealthy and poor nations. The researchers say their study suggests that much more attention and education are needed to combat a disease that also kills approximately 219,000 a year around the world.
“You only seem to hear about it when people get sick on a cruise ship or at a restaurant, but norovirus is everywhere,” says study leader Ms. Sarah M. Bartsch, a research associate at the Bloomberg School. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or if you’re in a wealthy country or a poorer one or if you’ve had it before – you can get it again. And it is really unpleasant. But if we don’t focus on norovirus and teach people how to prevent it, little headway will be made to combat it.”
Says the study’s senior author, Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, an associate professor in the department of international health at the Bloomberg School: “The costs associated with norovirus are high — higher than for many diseases, including rotavirus, that have gotten a lot more attention. Our study presents an economic argument for greater consideration of norovirus. It has been flying under the radar for too long.”