Rotavirus

Doctor examining a dehydrated child

What is Rotavirus?
Rotavirus is a disease of the digestive tract caused by one of the three strains of rotavirus. Infection from rotavirus causes acute gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea). People of all ages are susceptible to rotavirus infection. Children 6 months to 2 years of age, premature infants, the elderly and the immune-compromised are particularly prone to more severe symptoms.Rotavirus infection is also known by other names such as "infantile diarrhea," "winter diarrhea," "stomach flu," "acute nonbacterial infectious gastroenteritis" and "acute viral gastroenteritis."

The Statistics
The disease is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children worldwide, infecting about 120 million people every year. It is also responsible for the death of about 600,000 children per year in developing countries.

In the United States, the death rate from rotavirus infections has lowered substantially because of successful hospital treatment of the often severe vomiting and diarrhea caused by the disease. In 2006, rotavirus vaccination was recommended for children in the United States. Prior to that, almost every child had been infected with rotavirus by age 5 and the disease was responsible for more than 200,000 emergency room visits and 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations of young children each year. In addition, 20-60 children under five years of age died each year.

The Vaccine
The rotavirus vaccine (RV) protects against rotavirus. Children need two or three doses of the vaccine (depending on the vaccine brand). The first dose should be given at 2 months, the second dose at 4 months and third dose at 6 months of age.

There is currently no routine recommendation for adults to receive the rotavirus vaccine.


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