What Is Rotavirus?
If you look at a rota virus through a microscope, it has a round shape. The Latin word for wheel is “rota,” which explains how the virus got its name.
This easily spread virus causes inflammation in the stomach and intestines. From late winter to early spring, it can cause severe diarrhea, vomiting, fever, abdominal pain, and dehydration in infants, young children, and some adults.
While there are medications to help with the symptoms, there is no medicine that can cure rota virus. Even children who have been vaccinated against rota virus may still get it more than once.
How Do You Get It?
If your child has rota virus, it’s present in their poop before symptoms start and up to 10 days after they taper off. During that time, when your child wipes after using the toilet, rota virus can spread to his hands.
If he doesn’t wash his hands, the virus can spread to everything he touches, including things such as:
- Crayons and markers
- Surfaces such as sinks and kitchen counters
- Toys, including shared electronics such as i Pads and remote controls
If you touch your child’s unwashed hands or any object he’s contaminated and then touch your mouth, you can be infected as well. Continue Reading Below
Rotavirus spreads easily among infants and young children. The virus can cause severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. Children who get rota virus disease can become dehydrated and may need to be hospitalized.
Good hygiene like hand washing and cleanliness are important, but are not enough to control the spread of the disease. Rotavirus vaccine is the best way to protect your child against rota virus disease. Most children (about 9 out of 10) who get the vaccine will be protected from severe rota virus disease. About 7 out of 10 children will be protected from rota virus disease of any severity.
Two rota virus vaccines are currently licensed for infants in the United States:
- Rotate (RV5) is given in 3 doses at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months
- Tarot® (RV1) is given in 2 doses at ages 2 months and 4 months
The first dose of either vaccine should be given before a child is 15 weeks of age. Children should receive all doses of rota virus vaccine before they turn 8 months old.
Both vaccines are given by putting drops in the child’s mouth.
How rota virus is spread
Rotavirus infection is spread through contamination of hands, objects, food or water with infected faeces. The virus is taken in by the mouth. Such routes of infection are common in:
- day care centers
- family homes
- homes for the elderly.
It may also be spread by mucous membrane (the thin moist lining of many parts of the body such as the nose, mouth, throat and genitals) contact with infected airborne droplets produced by coughing and sneezing.
Signs and symptoms
Rotavirus infection is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea in infants and children worldwide. Symptoms include:
- watery diarrhea.
The onset is sudden and symptoms last for an average of 3 to 7 days. The illness may cause severe dehydration and require treatment in hospital. Mainly infants up to 3 years of age are affected, but older children and adults may also have symptomatic infection. Children can be infected with rota virus several times during their lives. Children and adults with impaired immunity are at increased risk of more severe infection. In temperate areas of Australia, rota virus infections are more common in mid to late winter, while in the northern tropical and arid regions there is no seasonal pattern. Epidemics of rota virus can occur.
The infection is diagnosed by detecting rota-virus in a fecal sample using a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test in a pathology laboratory.
About 24 to 72 hours (1 to 3 days).
Children can spread rota virus 2 days before and up to 8 days after develop diarrhea. Rotavirus is not usually detectable in the farces after the 8th day of illness.
Gastroenteritis is a common illness which can be particularly serious in young children. No specific antiviral treatment is available and antibiotics are not effective.
The following are general recommendations for the treatment of gastroenteritis:
- Give plenty of fluids. Oral re hydration solution is highly recommended for children with mild to moderate dehydration. It is available at pharmacies and should be administered following the instructions on the packaging.
- Mildly unwell children should be given their usual fluids more often. Carbonated (fizzy) drinks or undiluted juice should be avoided.
- Medicines to prevent vomiting or diarrhea should not be given (especially in children), except where specifically advised by a doctor.
- Breastfed babies should continue to be breastfed throughout their illness.
- Children on formula or solid diets should restart their normal diet (including full strength lactose containing milk) following re hydration with oral re hydration solution.
- Children who are hungry or ask for food should be given small portions of their usual foods, but avoid foods high in sugar or fat.
Rotavirus is a type of infection that’s most common in children under the age of 5. It’s highly contagious and easily transmittable. While it occurs most often in young children, adults can also get the infection, although it’s usually less severe.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Trusted Source reports that before the rota virus vaccine was introduced in 2006, the infection led to the following yearly statistics in children 5 and younger in the United States:
- 400,000 visits to the pediatrician
- between 55,000 and 70,000 hospital stays
- at least 200,000 emergency room intakes
- between 20 and 60 deaths
The rotavirus isn’t treated with medications. It usually resolves on its own with time. However, dehydration is a serious concern. Knowing when to seek medical intervention is essential to prevent life-threatening complications.