Introduction: Noroviruses are the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis in all age groups, but illness is more severe and causes excess mortality in the elderly, particularly those in long-term care. The total burden of norovirus disease in the elderly in the UK is poorly defined; no current surveillance programmes systematically or accurately quantify norovirus infection in those living in care homes. The aim of this study is to evaluate an enhanced surveillance system for acute gastroenteritis among the elderly in care homes.
Methods and analysis: We will conduct this prospective cohort study in care homes in North West England; residents and staff at study care homes will be asked to participate. We will prospectively enrol a cohort of participants in an enhanced surveillance system to capture the incidence of acute gastroenteritis and use multiplex PCR to detect pathogens. We will sample symptomatic and non-symptomatic participants to understand characteristics of norovirus disease and susceptibility to infection. We will generate novel data on transmission dynamics by collecting data on the pattern of interactions within care homes using electronic proximity sensors. Comparisons of outbreak and non-outbreak periods will be used to quantify the impact of norovirus outbreaks on care homes.
Ethics and dissemination: The study has been approved by the North West-Greater Manchester South NHS Research Ethics Committee (REC Reference: 16/NW/0541). Study outputs will be disseminated through scientific conferences and peer-reviewed publications. This study will provide detailed insight on the burden and aetiology of acute gastroenteritis in care homes, in addition to generating novel data on transmission dynamics and risks. The study will identify areas for improving infection control practice and allow more accurate modelling of the introduction of interventions such as vaccination.
Keywords: epidemiology; gastroenteritis; norovirus; outbreaks; surveillance; viral gastroenteritis.
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