MIAMI (AFP) - A common, highly contagious and sometimes deadly stomach bug known as norovirus costs the world some US$64 billion (S$87 billion) per year, mainly in lost productivity, researchers said on Tuesday (April 26).
The study by experts at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland was published in the journal PLOS ONE.
"You only seem to hear about it when people get sick on a cruise ship or at a restaurant, but norovirus is everywhere," said lead researcher Sarah Bartsch.
"It doesn't matter how old you are or if you're in a wealthy country or a poorer one or if you've had it before - you can get it again. And it is really unpleasant."
Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. There is no vaccine to prevent it, and no medicine to treat it.
The virus kills about 219,000 people per year worldwide and sickens nearly 700 million, resulting in some US$4.2 billion in health care costs and US$60.3 billion in societal costs annually, the report found.
Another diarrheal disease, rotavirus, which is particularly dangerous for babies, was estimated to cost the world US$2 billion a year before a vaccine was conceived.
"The costs associated with norovirus are high - higher than for many diseases, including rotavirus, that have gotten a lot more attention," said the study's senior author, Bruce Lee, an associate professor in the Johns Hopkins department of international health.
"Our study presents an economic argument for greater consideration of norovirus. It has been flying under the radar for too long." People may prevent norovirus from spreading by washing hands regularly and avoiding contact with those who are infected.