A norovirus vaccine could save 900 lives a year and prevent 109,000 hospital admissions, 465,000 emergency room visits and 2.27 million urgent care visits, Oxford University Press reports for the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Health care cost savings from a norovirus vaccine would run between $430 and $740 million annually, according to the study led by Rachel Burke, an epidemiologist with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

About one-fifth of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) cases globally are due to norovirus.

Sometimes called the “winter vomiting disease,” norovirus has long been a problem for people kept in tight spaces, such as cruise ships, hospitals and nursing homes, and other group settings. A norovirus sickness usually resolves itself in one to three days, but it can cause dehydration that requires hospitalization.

Health burdens and economic costs would both be saved if a vaccine does reach the market. A recent discovery of an antibody capable of broadly inhibiting several strains of pandemic norovirus has renewed interest in a norovirus vaccine.

Potential norovirus vaccines are in development, but currently, none are licensed for public use. Vaccine development costs can easily run $200 million to $500 million with no guarantees of success.

The study led by Burke finds substantial economic costs that might be saved annually if a vaccine does come on the market.

Hundreds of deaths and millions in health care costs are experienced annually, according to the research. It found most costs are expended on children who are sickened with norovirus and are treated at Emergency Rooms and ambulatory clinics.

But it is the elderly that experience the most severe norovirus infections and resulting deaths.

During their lifetimes, 1 in 2 Americans will have a norovirus infection that requires a clinic visit, 1 in 9 will require an ER visit, 1 in 37 will require hospitalization, and 1 in 3,500 will result in death.

Burke says the study will provide a “benchmark” for evaluating the economic benefits for vaccine developments. In the meantime, she says “active surveillance of norovirus is warranted to refine burden estimates and provide more detail and precision…”

In determining annual estimates, the researchers looked at various health care databases from July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2015.

Norovirus, cruise ships, and frozen fruits and berries are topics for April 24, 2020, edition of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

The MMWR writers discuss multiple incidents involving cruise ships, investigated by CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program. It did not find the outbreak source for 13 passengers who suddenly became ill while onboard in September 2019. The ship’s name, sailing from Germany to New York City, was not disclosed.

A month later, more unfortunate passengers became sick on two more un-named cruise ships out of New York City. Investigators found 80 percent remembered eating smoothies with frozen fruits and berries.

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