Rotavirus is a virus that causes gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines). The rotavirus disease causes severe watery diarrhea, often with vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. In babies and young children, it can lead to dehydration (loss of body fluids).
Rotavirus disease is most common in infants and young children, but adults and older children can also become infected with rotavirus. Once a person has been exposed to rotavirus, it takes about 2 days for symptoms to appear.
- Abdominal pain
Vomiting and watery diarrhea may last from 3 to 8 days in a child who is infected with rotavirus. Additional symptoms include loss of appetite and dehydration (loss of body fluids), which can be especially harmful for infants and young children.
Vaccinated and unvaccinated children may develop rotavirus disease more than once because there are many different types of rotavirus and because neither vaccine nor natural infection provides full immunity (protection) from future infections. Usually a person’s first infection with rotavirus causes the most severe symptoms.
Rotavirus spreads easily among young children. Children can spread the virus both before and after they become sick with diarrhea. They can also pass rotavirus to family members and other people with whom they have close contact.
Rotavirus is shed (passed from a person’s body into the environment) in feces (stool) of infected persons. The virus spreads by the fecal-oral route; this means that the virus must be shed by an infected person and then enter a susceptible person’s mouth to cause infection.
Rotavirus can be spread by contaminated
- Objects (toys, surfaces)
In the United States, rotavirus infections can cause diarrhea in adults who care for children, in older adults, and in adults who are traveling. Children are most likely to get rotavirus in the winter and spring (December through June).
Rotavirus can spread easily. Good hygiene (handwashing) and cleanliness are important but are not enough to control the spread of the disease.
Rotavirus vaccines are very effective in preventing rotavirus gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) and the accompanying diarrhea and other symptoms. CDC recommends routine vaccination of infants with either of the two available vaccines:
- RotaTeq® (RV5), which is given in 3 doses at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months; or
- Rotarix® (RV1), which is given in 2 doses at ages 2 months and 4 months.
Both rotavirus vaccines are given orally, but they differ in the number of doses given. The vaccines are very effective (85% to 98%) in preventing severe rotavirus disease in infants and young children, including rotavirus infection that requires hospitalization.
Rotavirus vaccines will not prevent diarrhea or vomiting caused by other viruses, but they are very effective against rotavirus infection.
There is no antiviral drug to treat rotavirus infection. Antibiotic drugs will not help; this is because antibiotics fight against bacteria not viruses.
Rotavirus infection can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. This can lead to dehydration (loss of body fluids). During rotavirus infection, infants and young children, older adults, and people with other illnesses are most at risk for dehydration.
Symptoms of dehydration in children and adults include
- decrease in urination
- dry mouth and throat
- feeling dizzy when standing up
A dehydrated child may also cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.
Dehydration can lead to other serious problems. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization for treatment with intravenous (IV) fluids (fluids given to the patient directly through their veins). The best way to protect against dehydration is to drink plenty of liquids (oral rehydration therapy). The most helpful fluids for this purpose are oral rehydration fluids (ORF)*.
Severe dehydration can be serious. If you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, contact your doctor.
*Several products with ingredients similar to those in ORFs can be used to prevent or treat mild dehydration. These products—called oral rehydration solutions—are sold as pre-mixed fluids. Oral rehydration solutions that are commonly available in U.S. food and drug stores include Infalyte®, Kao Lectrolyte®, Naturalyte, Oralyte, and Pedialyte®. If you are unsure about which product to use or how to use these pre-mixed fluids, contact your doctor.
Source: Centers for Disease Control March 11, 2014