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June 10, 2008 - 7:30am
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What is rotavirus?

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among children, resulting in the hospitalization of approximately 55,000 children each year in the United States and the death of over 600,000 children annually worldwide. The incubation period for rotavirus disease is approximately 2 days.

What are the symptoms?

The disease is characterized by vomiting and watery diarrhea for 3 - 8 days, and fever and abdominal pain occur frequently. Immunity after infection is incomplete, but repeat infections tend to be less severe than the original infection.

How is it transmitted?

The primary mode of transmission is fecal-oral, although small amounts of the virus have been found in respiratory tract secretions and other body fluids. Transmission can occur through ingestion of contaminated water or food and contact with contaminated surfaces.

In the United States and other countries with a temperate climate, the disease has a winter seasonal pattern, with annual epidemics occurring from November to April. The highest rates of illness occur among infants and young children, and most children in the United States are infected by 2 years of age. Adults can also be infected, though disease tends to be mild.

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis may be made by rapid antigen detection of rotavirus in stool specimens.

What is the treatment for rotavirus?

For persons with healthy immune systems, rotavirus gastroenteritis is a self-limited illness, lasting for only a few days. Treatment is nonspecific and consists of oral rehydration therapy to prevent dehydration. About one in 40 children with rotavirus gastroenteritis will require hospitalization for intravenous fluids.

What has been done to prevent rotavirus?

In 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a live virus vaccine (Rotashield) for use in children. However, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended that Rotashield no longer be recommended for infants in the United States because of data that indicated a strong association between Rotashield and bowel obstruction among some infants during the first 1-2 weeks following vaccination.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 1999

Last reviewed June 1999 by ]]>EBSCO Publishing Editorial Staff]]>

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.