Norovirus Is Back

Norovirus — the highly contagious and most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in long-term care communities — has returned to pre-pandemic levels as cases steadily rise in the U.S. According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 225 norovirus outbreaks reported between August 1, 2022, and January 8, 2023, by the 14 states participating in the NoroSTAT tracking program. 

These rates are significantly higher than the 172 outbreaks reported during the same period in the last seasonal year. The CDC attributes the rise to relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, which had helped prevent outbreaks of many infectious diseases including norovirus. 

Long-term care is especially vulnerable to norovirus and accounts for the majority of outbreaks in the US. During the 2021-2022 season, 59% of outbreaks occurred in skilled nursing alone, which per CDC data, aligns with pre-pandemic ranges of 53% to 68%.

According to a different CDC study, most outbreaks (90%) spread person-to-person and occurred in the winter (75% from December through March). Pre-pandemic rates averaged four per 100 facilities annually and for every 1,000 cases, there were 22 hospitalizations and 2.3 deaths. 

Long-term care providers are urged to increase prevention efforts to manage norovirus, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea and can be especially dangerous if it leads to severe dehydration. On average each year in the US, norovirus causes 900 deaths, mostly among older adults.

Click here to read more.