Factors Driving Norovirus Transmission in Long-Term Care Facilities
Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis outbreaks in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) in the United States, causing a high burden of disease in both residents and staff. Understanding how case symptoms and characteristics contribute to norovirus transmission can lead to more informed outbreak control measures in LTCFs. We examined line lists for 107 norovirus outbreaks that took place in LTCFs in five U.S. states from 2015 to 2019. We estimated the individual effective reproduction number, Ri, to quantify individual case infectiousness and examined the contribution of vomiting, diarrhea, and being a resident (vs. staff) to case infectiousness. The associations between case characteristics and Riwere estimated using a multivariable, log-linear mixed model with inverse variance weighting. We found that cases with vomiting infected 1.28 (95 % CI: 1.11, 1.48) times the number of secondary cases compared to cases without vomiting, and LTCF residents infected 1.31 (95 % CI: 1.15, 1.50) times the number of secondary cases compared to staff. There was no difference in infectiousness between cases with and without diarrhea (1.07; 95 % CI: 0.90, 1.29). This suggests that vomiting, particularly by LTCF residents, was a primary driver of norovirus transmission. These results support control measures that limit exposure to vomitus during norovirus outbreaks in LTCFs.