Emergency Department Visit Data for Rapid Detection and Monitoring of Norovirus Activity, United States - Vol. 19 No. 8 - August 2013 - Emerging Infectious Disease journal - CDC
Table of Contents
Volume 19, Number 8–August 2013
Volume 19, Number 8—August 2013
Emergency Department Visit Data for Rapid Detection and Monitoring of Norovirus Activity, United States
Noroviruses are the most common cause of epidemic and sporadic gastroenteritis worldwide (1–4). In the United States, norovirus gastroenteritis causes an estimated 21 million cases of illness and ≈800 deaths annually (5,6), resulting in an estimated 1.7 million physician’s office visits, 400,000 emergency department (ED) visits, and 71,000 hospitalizations each year. The estimated annual cost for norovirus-related health care in the United States is $777 million (7,8).
AbstractNoroviruses are the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the United States, but timely measures of disease are lacking. BioSense, a national-level electronic surveillance system, assigns data on chief complaints (patient symptoms) collected during emergency department (ED) visits to 78 subsyndromes in near real-time. In a series of linear regression models, BioSense visits mapped by chief complaints of diarrhea and nausea/vomiting subsyndromes as a monthly proportion of all visits correlated strongly with reported norovirus outbreaks from 6 states during 2007–2010. Higher correlations were seen for diarrhea (R = 0.828–0.926) than for nausea/vomiting (R = 0.729–0.866) across multiple age groups. Diarrhea ED visit proportions exhibited winter seasonality attributable to norovirus; rotavirus contributed substantially for children < 5 years of age. Diarrhea ED visit data estimated the onset, peak, and end of norovirus season within 4 weeks of observed dates and could be reliable, timely indicators of norovirus activity.
Timely monitoring of norovirus activity has remained elusive in part because of the scarcity of diagnostic testing for patients with suspected disease. Approximately 90% of persons with acute viral gastroenteritis do not seek medical attention; of those who do, only 6% submit stool specimens for diagnostic testing, in part because testing is often not deemed necessary for self-limited illness (2). Furthermore, no rapid and sensitive clinical assay is widely available in the United States, and definitive diagnosis requires PCR, which is used primarily in public health laboratories; therefore, few nonoutbreak cases are laboratory confirmed (9). As a result, existing US norovirus surveillance depends on outbreak investigations that can be subject to substantial delays in reporting. This process of notifying local/state health departments of disease, subsequently investigating the outbreak, testing specimens, and voluntarily reporting to the national surveillance system can vary widely in duration (days to months), which makes timely and uniform monitoring on a national level challenging (9,10).
The timing and magnitude of norovirus seasonal activity varies from year to year (11,12). Timely monitoring could rapidly identify the season onset and elevated levels of activity, which could potentially improve prevention and control efforts by public health and infection control personnel in health care settings, help with planning for increased health care utilization in facilities, and alert the public with timely prevention messages. Syndromic surveillance data based on ED visits related to gastroenteritis might be robust and timely surrogate measures of norovirus activity, given its characteristic wintertime seasonality.
BioSense is a timely, national-level electronic health surveillance system that receives and processes healthcare encounter data to conduct syndromic surveillance and is maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A subset of the data that BioSense receives is ED visit data: codes from the International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification (www.cdc.gov/nchs/icd/icd9cm.htm), and chief complaint (i.e., patient-reported symptoms) information entered in text format. These data are then mapped in near real-time to 15 syndromes and 78 subsyndromes, including those related to gastroenteritis symptoms (11,12). For this study, we assessed whether BioSense chief complaint–based ED visit data could be a reliable indicator of norovirus activity in the United States by determining the degree of correlation of these data with reported norovirus outbreaks.