From One Stomach Virus to Another

Norovirus detected in more children than rotavirus

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Rotavirus was the leading cause of diarrhea and stomach pain in infants and young children across the globe. But now, another group of viruses might be taking its place.

A group of stomach viruses called norovirus was detected in 21 percent of young children who were being treated for acute gastroenteritis in 2009 and 2010, according to a recently published study. At the same time, only 12 percent of children had rotavirus.

The findings showed that this group of stomach viruses might be the new leading cause of severe stomach pains and diarrhea in young children, according to the researchers.

"Have your child tested for norovirus."

Researchers led by Daniel Payne, PhD, MSPH, from the Epidemiology Branch at the National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Disease at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, aimed to find how many children being treated for acute gastroenteritis also had norovirus or rotavirus.

Researchers tested fecal matter samples of 1,295 children for norovirus and rotavirus, which are groups of viruses that cause stomachaches, diarrhea and vomiting. Rotavirus vaccines for young children came out in 2006.

Participating children, who were 5 years of age and younger, were treated at outpatient clinics, emergency departments and hospitals that were part of the New Vaccine Surveillance Network between 2009 and 2010. The network covers three counties in New York, Tennessee and Cincinnati.

Researchers calculated how many cases of acute gastroenteritis were caused by norovirus. They also calculated total medical costs.

Researchers found more cases of norovirus than rotavirus in children with acute gastroenteritis. Most cases occurred among children between 6 and 18 months of age.

In 2009, 22 percent of children had norovirus. In 2010, that number dropped slightly to 20 percent. These percentages accounted for 278 cases of norovirus in 1,295 children during those two years. At the same time, only 12 percent of children had rotavirus.

For every 10,000 kids, norovirus caused about nine hospital admissions, 147 emergency room visits and 368 outpatient clinic visits by children each year.

Medical bills added up to almost $4,000 for each hospital visit, $435 for each emergency room visit and $151 for outpatient clinic visits. The children attended outpatient clinics most often.

According to researchers, the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine has led to a decline in rotavirus cases, leaving norovirus as "the leading cause of medically attended acute gastroenteritis among US children younger than 5 years of age."

"The overall healthcare utilization rates (rates of hospitalization, emergency department visits, and outpatient visits) associated with norovirus infection were more than twice as high as those associated with rotavirus infection since rotavirus vaccines were introduced," researchers wrote in their report.

Based on their study, researchers estimated that children under 5 across the US accounted for more than 14,000 hospital visits, 281,000 ER visits and 627,000 outpatient visits.

The researchers noted that their study might not represent the rest of the US population of children.

A few of the authors received consulting fees, lecture fees, royalties and grant support from GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Luminex Molecular Diagnostics and Rotarix.

The study was published March 20 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 20, 2013
Last Updated:
March 21, 2013