SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

Norovirus causes one million annual doctor visits by U.S. children

Norovirus causes more than one million medical visits per year in the U.S. at a cost of $273 million annually, according to a recent study.

Norovirus is the most common cause of vomiting in young children and by the time children are five, one in 278 will have been hospitalized for the bug. One out of every six children will have been treated by a nurse or doctor for norovirus by that time. The study was published on Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Bloomberg reports.

Daniel Payne, the lead author of the study, said the vaccine is likely years away and hand washing is currently the best defense.

"This study very strongly suggests that person-to-person transmission of norovirus is a very big deal," Payne said, according to Bloomberg. "This is a significant health-care burden among U.S. children under five."

Since the 2006 development of a vaccine to prevent rotavirus, another gastrointestinal pathogen, norovirus became the leading cause of stomach illness among children under the age of five. The study detected approximately twice as many norovirus cases as rotavirus cases.

The Osaka, Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. is the furthest along in developing a vaccine for norovirus.

The study found that more than 600,000 American children below the age of five visit their doctor annually because of norovirus, 281,000 go to the emergency room and 14,000 are hospitalized, Bloomberg reports.