Rotavirus

Rotavirus is a very common infection worldwide and most every child will have been infected by the age of five years. Rotavirus causes abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and most notably, frequent watery diarrhea. The diarrhea can be so severe as to require hospitalization for re-hydration and fluid maintenance, but there is no specific therapy to reduce the duration of the infection and subsequent disease. Some children, over 400,000 per year, especially those in the developing world, but also in the United States, die from Rotavirus infection due to dehydration worldwide. Rotavirus is an infection worth preventing.Rotavirus

Symptoms of Rotavirus Infection

Those infected with rotavirus often experience severe watery diarrhea, usually accompanied by vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. The gastrointestinal symptoms can last anywhere from 3 to 8 days. Some people infected with rotavirus may also experience loss of appetite and dehydration. Dehydration can be especially dangerous in infants and young children who are less able to rehydrate on their own. Individuals suffering from dehydration may experience any or all of the following symptoms:

  • decrease in urination
  • dry mouth and throat
  • feeling dizzy when standing up

Children who are dehydrated may audibly cry but produce few or even no liquid tears. Dehydrated children also tend to be unusually sleepy and/or fussy.

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Who Gets Rotavirus?

While rotavirus is often thought of as a disease of children, and it most commonly strikes children, it would be a mistake to think that adults cannot be infected with, and become quite ill from, rotavirus. Although each time a person is infected with rotavirus they build immunity, this acquired immunity is not completely protective, in part because there are multiple strains of rotavirus. Even children who have been vaccinated can get rotavirus more than one time, although subsequent infections are usually not as severe as the first infection. Adults who were infected as children, therefore, can become infected again even though they have some level of immunity. Usually, adults who get rotavirus disease tend to have milder symptoms, but this may not be true for older adults, for those with compromised immune systems, or for those who are already ill with other conditions or infections.

Children in daycare settings, as well as the family contacts of such children, and those who work in daycare settings and their families, are at especially high risk for rotavirus infection!

How is Rotavirus Spread?

Rotavirus spreads easily, especially among infants and young children. Unlike some infections, rotavirus can be spread among and by children both before and after they display the classic symptom of diarrhea. The rotavirus infection is easily spread to family members, including siblings, parents, grandparents and other care providers, anyone with whom an infected child has close contact.