Looking at norovirus outbreaks in Arizona


PHOENIX — Some may call it food poisoning, stomach flu, or a stomach bug, but it mostly comes down to norovirus. It is a leading cause of foodborne illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks the virus, and there is a small uptick in the data.

At the summary level the CDC estimates anywhere from 19 to 21 million Americans contract norovirus each year.

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Almost three million of those will be serious enough to go to urgent care and a half million will go to the emergency room. The CDC says these cases are mostly children under five.

About 110,000 people will be hospitalized, and norovirus is the cause of about 900 deaths annually, mainly Americans over the age of 85.

Of the cases serious enough to be tested in a health care facility, the positivity rate is up slightly. Last year the positivity rate was 14.55% nationwide.

This past week, the CDC surveillance data showed the rate climbed to 17.14%.

Western states, which includes Arizona, fare better with a positivity rate of 11.8% last year and 14.3% now.

Norovirus cases tend to decline after the February and March timeframe in the U.S., but the data is different for Arizona.

Surveillance data from 2009 to 2020 shows norovirus outbreaks peaked in April, with 62 outbreaks in that month alone. March is the second most common month for outbreaks.

Almost half of the outbreaks occur in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, 49%.

Restaurants are the cause of 11% of outbreaks in the state. Schools, hospitals and daycare centers round out the top five locations.

Even though norovirus is considered a foodborne illness, it is highly contagious.

The CDC says the best prevention of norovirus is to wash your hands, but always remember to put those fruits and vegetables under the water as well before preparation.