Nursing Home Deaths, Hospitalizations Spike During Norovirus Outbreaks, Study Finds
Nursing home hospitalizations and deaths spiked at least 10 percent during norovirus outbreaks, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported Thursday.
“Among nursing home residents, we saw about a 10 percent increase in hospitalizations and deaths during norovirus outbreaks,” said Tarak Trivedi, study co-author and University of Chicago medical student, Thursday in announcing his team’s findings.
Researchers examined 1,257 nursing homes in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Oregon between January 2009 and December 2010. They found that, during norovirus outbreaks, the homes saw 2,533 hospitalizations and 1,097 deaths.
Data show that “the rates of hospitalization and death were significantly elevated during outbreak periods” in all three states, Trivedi and colleagues wrote.
The question, now, is whether there is a direct cause behind the correlation, the researchers said.
“As a next step, research should be directed to determine if this increase is directly attributable to norovirus infections and subsequent gastroenteritis,” Thursday’s report said. “Additionally, more detailed information is necessary to understand the specific contributory causes … of norovirus-associated deaths.”
But if norovirus is as lethal as data from the three states appear to show, then administrators and staff will have to be more vigilant about stomach flu outbreaks, the researchers said.
“Annually, more than 1,000 outbreaks of acute gastroenteritis are reported by nursing homes to U.S. public health agencies, and this likely represents only a fraction of the actual number, due to underreporting,” the study said.
Of the 1,257 nursing homes observed, 308 (24 percent of the total group) “reported at least one suspected or confirmed norovirus outbreak during the two-year study period.” Most of the outbreaks occurred during the winter.
“These nursing homes reported a total of 407 outbreaks, with 230 reporting one outbreak, 60 reporting two outbreaks, 15 reporting three outbreaks, and three reporting four outbreaks,” the report said.
Seventy-two percent of the total documented cases were laboratory confirmed outbreaks.