Norovirus outbreaks are notoriously explosive, with dramatic symptomology and rapid disease spread. Children are particularly vulnerable to infection and drive norovirus transmission due to their high contact rates with each other and the environment. Despite the explosive nature of norovirus outbreaks, attack rates in schools and daycares remain low with the majority of students not reporting symptoms.
We explore immunologic and epidemiologic mechanisms that may underlie epidemic norovirus transmission dynamics using a disease transmission model. Towards this end, we compared different model scenarios, including innate resistance and acquired immunity (collectively denoted ‘immunity’), stochastic extinction, and an individual exclusion intervention. We calibrated our model to daycare and school outbreaks from national surveillance data.
Including immunity in the model led to attack rates that were consistent with the data. However, immunity alone resulted in the majority of outbreak durations being relatively short. The addition of individual exclusion (to the immunity model) extended outbreak durations by reducing the amount of time that symptomatic people contribute to transmission. Including both immunity and individual exclusion mechanisms resulted in simulations where both attack rates and outbreak durations were consistent with surveillance data.
The epidemiology of norovirus outbreaks in daycare and school settings cannot be well described by a simple transmission model in which all individuals start as fully susceptible. More studies on how best to design interventions which leverage population immunity and encourage more rigorous individual exclusion may improve venue-level control measures. See video abstract at http://links.lww.com/EDE/B795.