Before COVID-19, a More Common Virus Plagued the US: Norovirus

It might seem odd to think about a virus other than COVID-19 right now, but if you’ve ever come down with a “stomach bug,” there’s a good chance it was norovirus. Norovirus, which causes inflammation in the intestines or stomach, infects the average American five times in their life. Although most people don’t need medical care and get better within a couple days, a new study estimates that the virus costs the U.S. $10.6 billion each year.

Sarah Bartsch, the project director of the Public Health Informatics, Computational, and Operation Research team, PHICOR senior research analyst Kelly O’Shea, and Professor Bruce Y. Lee of the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy authored the new paper, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The authors created a computational model that estimated the costs of the virus in an average year and found that, even though large outbreaks get more media attention, it’s the sporadic cases that are costing the most.

The $10.6 billion per year estimate includes both medical costs and losses from people not being able to work when they’re sick. Sporadic cases, meaning people getting the virus in scattered instances outside of outbreaks, account for over 90% of that loss.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to track sporadic cases of norovirus. Because so many people don’t go to the doctor when they get it, many cases aren’t recorded. The authors suggest that it would help if people were more aware of norovirus symptoms, if clinics tested for it more often, and if employers encouraged workers to stay home when they’re sick.

Beyond SUM

Explore This Work

The Clinical and Economic Burden of Norovirus Gastroenteritis in the United States
The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2020

Work By

Bruce Y. Lee (Professor, Executive Director, PHICOR, Health Policy and Management) | Profile 1
Sarah M. Bartsch (Project Director, PHICOR, | Profile 1