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. Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children worldwide.
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 passed from a person’s body into the environment via the feces of infected persons. The virus spreads by the fecal-oral route; this means that the virus must be passed by an infected person and then enter a susceptible person’s mouth to cause infection.
How is Rotavirus spread?
• Objects (toys, surfaces)
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, which can be especially harmful for infants and young children.
- Usually a person’s first infection with rotavirus causes the most severe symptoms. There is no antiviral drug to treat rotavirus infection. Antibiotic drugs will not help; this is because antibiotics fight against bacteria not viruses.
- 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).
- Severe dehydration can be serious. If you think you or someone you are caring for is severely dehydrated, contact your doctor.
Photo courtesy of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)