Norway introduced routine rotavirus immunization for all children born on or after September 1, 2014. We estimated the healthcare burden of all-cause gastroenteritis and rotavirus disease in children <5 years old to establish the prevaccine baseline and support the ongoing immunization program.
We examined national registry data on gastroenteritis-associated primary care consultations and hospitalizations for 2009–2013 and data on all deaths in children <5 years old reported during 2000–2013. We also established rotavirus hospital surveillance from February 2014 through January 2015.
Before vaccine introduction, 114.5 cases per 1000 children <5 years old were treated in primary care and 11.8 children per 1000 were hospitalized with gastroenteritis annually. During hospital surveillance, rotavirus was detected in 65% (95% confidence interval: 60–70) of inpatient gastroenteritis cases. We estimated that 4.0 inpatient and 2.3 outpatient cases per 1000 children were seen in hospital with rotavirus disease annually, suggesting that 1 in 32 children was hospitalized by age 5. Additional 30.6 rotavirus cases per 1000 children consulted primary care annually or 1 in every 7 children by the age of 5 years. Rotavirus-associated mortality was estimated at 0.17 deaths per 100,000 children <5 years old, corresponding to 1 death every second year.
Rotavirus remains the primary cause of severe gastroenteritis in children in Norway. The unique population-based registers, in combination with an established rotavirus surveillance platform, provide a well-suited setting to evaluate the impact of rotavirus vaccination.