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Norovirus Costs Over $60 Billion In Health Care And Lost Productivity Per Year

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Norovirus costs more than $60 billion in combined health care and productivity expenses every year, a new study found.

In particular, the contagious stomach bug costs $60.3 billion in productivity loss and $4.2 billion in health care expenses.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted what is believed to be the first study on the effects of norovirus on the global economy.

The stomach bug affects both rich and poor nations, sickening about 700 million people and killing 219,000 globally every year.

Norovirus symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and other severe gastrointestinal indicators. To date, there is no treatment or vaccine for norovirus.

There have been many outbreaks on cruise ships and restaurants, but norovirus is everywhere, said Sarah M. Bartsch, the study's leader and Bloomberg School's research associate.

"The costs associated with norovirus are high - higher than for many diseases, including rotavirus, that have gotten a lot more attention," added senior study author Dr. Bruce Y. Lee, from Bloomberg School's Department of International Health.

In the study, the research team used a computer model to compute the estimated costs stemming from hospitalizations and loss of productivity.

Hospital-related costs included the clinic visits while productivity losses covered missed work days due to sickness or caring for a sick loved one, underperformance and premature mortality.

The team's model produced estimated expenses for 233 countries, territories and regions using the population data from the United Nations.

Lee added that the losses in productivity often go unrecognized but they cover 94 percent of the burden of norovirus on the global economy.

The research team hoped that their findings will help public health groups and funding agencies in determining where to allocate the somewhat limited funds for virus control as well as educational initiatives.

The high costs linked to the virus suggested the need for developing new methods for detection, protection and treatment.

The findings, which were published in the PLOS ONE journal on April 26, proposed that more education and attention are required to fight the contagious norovirus.

In the meantime, observing health safety measures during food preparations, maintaining good hygiene and preventing infected individuals from further spreading the disease can help in norovirus protection.

Photo: Andrew Roberts | Flickr

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