Background: Outbreaks of infectious gastroenteritis in care homes are common, with norovirus a frequent cause. In England there is no co-ordinated national surveillance system. We aimed to estimate the burden of these outbreaks. Methods: Using a generalised linear mixed effects regression model we described the relationship between the observed number of care home outbreaks and covariates. Estimated model parameters were used to infer uplift in the number of outbreaks expected if all areas were subjected to enhanced surveillance. From this we then estimated the total burden of care home gastroenteritis outbreaks in this period. Results: We estimated a total of 14,146 care home gastroenteritis outbreaks in England during 2014-2016; this is 47% higher than the reported total and a rate of 32.4 outbreaks per 100 care homes per year. The median number of outbreaks from the model estimates was 31 (IQR 20-46) compared to 19 (IQR 12-34) reported from routine surveillance. Conclusions: This estimated care home gastroenteritis burden in England indicates that current surveillance substantially underestimates the number of outbreaks, by almost half. Improving this surveillance could provide better epidemiological knowledge of the burden of norovirus to inform public health policy, particularly with the advent of norovirus vaccines.
- Gastroenteritis: Care homes