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Rotavirus Infections

What is rotavirus?

Rotavirus is a contagious virus and, among children, is the leading cause of severe diarrhea. In some infants and children, diarrhea may be so severe that they become dehydrated and may require emergency care or hospitalization.

How is rotavirus spread?

Transmission of rotavirus most often occurs through fecal-oral contact. Usually, this occurs from poor hand washing or from ingestion of contaminated food or water. The virus may also be transmitted through the respiratory tract or by other body fluids, but these routes are less common. The virus may live on inanimate surfaces, such as doorknobs, toys, and hard surfaces, for quite some time. For this reason, outbreaks can occur in child care centers and within families who share a household. The hospitalized child will need to be isolated from other children to prevent transmission of the virus.

What are the symptoms of rotavirus?

The symptoms for rotavirus can range from mild to severe. The following are the most common symptoms of rotavirus. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include.

How is rotavirus diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, a stool culture may be used to detect the virus.

Treatment for rotavirus:

Specific treatment for rotavirus will be determined by your child's physician based on:

There is no cure for rotavirus, so treatment of the disease is supportive (aimed at treating the symptoms present). Treatment may include:

About one out of every 40 children may develop severe enough dehydration to require hospitalization. In these children treatment may include:

How can rotavirus be prevented?

The following will help to prevent the spread of the rotavirus:

If your child develops rotavirus, he/she may not be able to attend daycare or school while he/she is ill. If your child is hospitalized, he/she will be isolated from other children to prevent an outbreak in the hospital.

A rotavirus vaccine that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1998 was pulled from the market in 1999 because of an association between the vaccine and an increased risk for intussusception in infants aged one year or younger. However, no direct link was established to the vaccine as a cause of intussusception.

A new rotavirus vaccine was approved by the FDA in 2006. The risk for intussusception with the new vaccine was evaluated in a large clinical trial of over 70,000 children, and no increased risk was found. The manufacturer of the vaccine will continue to closely monitor the vaccine’s safety in additional clinical studies.

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