Trends and Outbreaks
Each year on average in the United States, norovirus—
- causes 19–21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach or intestines or both)
- leads to 1.7–1.9 million outpatient visits and 400,000 emergency department visits, primarily in young children
- contributes to about 56,000–71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths, mostly among young children and the elderly
You can get norovirus illness at any time during the year. But, it is most common in the winter. Also, there can be 50% more norovirus illness in years when there is a new strain of the virus going around.
Most outbreaks of norovirus illness happen when infected people spread the virus to others. But, norovirus can also spread by consuming contaminated food or water and touching things that have the virus on them.
Healthcare facilities, including nursing homes and hospitals, are the most commonly reported places for norovirus outbreaks in the United States and other industrialized countries. Over half of all norovirus outbreaks reported in the United States occur in long-term care facilities.
Outbreaks of norovirus illness have also occurred in restaurants, schools, banquet halls, summer camps, cruise ships, and even at family dinners. These are all places where people often eat food handled or prepared by others.
In fact, norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the United States. About 50% of all outbreaks of food-related illness are caused by norovirus.
- leafy greens (such as lettuce),
- fresh fruits, and
- shellfish (such as oysters).
But, any food that is served raw or handled after being cooked can get contaminated.
To search for foodborne outbreaks caused by norovirus, go to the Foodborne Outbreak Online Database (FOOD).
Norovirus outbreaks have also been caused by contaminated water from sewage in wells and recreational settings, such as pools.
Learn more about norovirus
Resources for Public Health Practitioners
- Updated Norovirus Outbreak Management and Disease Prevention Guidelines (2011)
- Guideline for the Prevention and Control of Norovirus Gastroenteritis Outbreaks in Healthcare Settings (2011)
- A Norovirus Outbreak Control Resource Toolkit for Healthcare Settings (2012)
- CDC Data & Statistics Feature: Surveillance for Norovirus Outbreaks
- Surveillance Summaries for Waterborne Disease and Outbreaks
For more information, see the “For Public Health Professionals” section of this Web site.Top of Page
- Page last reviewed: July 26, 2013
- Page last updated: July 8, 2014
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