New vaccine protects against norovirus

A study by the Baylor College of Medicine has found that a vaccine could help passengers on cruise ships to avoid the norovirus, a bug that has sickened many people on recent voyages.
The norovirus frequently occurs on cruise ships due to crowded quarters, where it spreads from person to person. The symptoms of the virus include diarrhea, cramping and vomiting. There are 21 million cases of the virus in the United States each year, Third Age reports.
Experts say that unsanitary food handling and poor restroom cleaning can increase the disease's spread.
"It is possible to prevent infection and illness with a vaccine for norovirus," Robert Atmar, a professor of medicine and molecular virology at the university, said, according to HealthDay. "(But) we have to figure out the best way to give it and how long protection lasts."
The study examined 98 people with a gene that made them susceptible to the norovirus and gave them either the vaccine or a placebo. Seventy percent of the vaccine recipients made antibodies. Those who received the vaccine were also less likely to develop the illness and had less frequent symptoms than those who got the placebo.
The new vaccine is given in two doses three weeks apart via a nasal spray. Atmar said that it could be given to people prior to leaving for a cruise, or regularly to other populations that are vulnerable, such as the elderly or active military personnel. Annual updates may be needed, because norovirus has different strains that circulate yearly.
"There are a number of studies that have to be done before this would be possible," Atmar said, according to Third Age.