In light of Republican efforts to stoke fear over Ebola, I have decided to become the Czar of All Ebolas. OK, not really. But I figure, if conservatives can use an imaginary, non-existent threat to affect policy and politics, then we can too. With norovirus season nearly upon us, it’s worth reviewing some some facts about norovirus (boldface mine):
Although recognized as the leading cause of epidemic acute gastroenteritis across all age groups, norovirus has remained poorly characterized with respect to its endemic disease incidence. Use of different methods, including attributable proportion extrapolation, population-based surveillance, and indirect modeling, in several recent studies has considerably improved norovirus disease incidence estimates for the United States. Norovirus causes an average of 570–800 deaths, 56,000–71,000 hospitalizations, 400,000 emergency department visits, 1.7–1.9 million outpatient visits, and 19–21 million total illnesses per year. Persons >65 years of age are at greatest risk for norovirus-associated death, and children <5 years of age have the highest rates of norovirus-associated medical care visits. Endemic norovirus disease occurs year round but exhibits a pronounced winter peak and increases by ≤50% during years in which pandemic strains emerge.
That’s right, in ‘good’ years, norovirus kills hundreds, some of whom are babies, sends hundreds of thousands to the hospital, and causes millions of cases of illness (winter vomiting disease, it’s as fun as it sounds!™). In the bad years, you can double these numbers. While I‘ve discussed this before, the major factor in norovirus transmission is food preparation by infected people–and these aren’t asymptomatic carriers either:
1 in 5 food service workers have reported working while sick with vomiting and diarrhea. Fear of job loss and leaving coworkers short staffed were significant factors in their decision.
So I say it’s time to whip up some nasty hysteria over norovirus. Propose a ‘National Norovirus Prevention Act’, whose cornerstone is sick leave for restaurant workers. If anyone opposes this, call ’em baby killers who hate America. If we do this right (or rightwing style), we could get mandatory sick leave–which unlike the Ebola idiocy would actually be good public policy.
So who’s with me?
Seriously, we shouldn’t demagogue on this issue, but if we lived in a country where ideology didn’t trump public health, I wouldn’t even have the opportunity to make sick (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) jokes about the topic.