Rotavirus is an infection of the stomach and intestines. It is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children.

Rotavirus can easily pass from person to person.

Digestive Tract
Digestive tract

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A rotavirus infection is caused by a specific type of virus.

The virus is passed through the stool of someone with rotavirus. The infected stool can pass the virus to hands, surfaces, objects, food, or water. The virus then enters the body when any of these infected items come in contact with the mouth.

Risk Factors

People with the highest chance of rotavirus include:

  • Infants and young children
  • Children who attend daycare or any public childcare setting
  • Adults who care for young children, especially children who wear diapers
  • Children or adults with household members who have the virus


Symptoms of rotavirus may vary from person to person but may include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

These symptoms can range from mild to severe. They often last about 3 to 8 days.


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The infection may be diagnosed based on your symptoms. A stool sample may be taken. The sample will be examined for the presence of the virus.


There is no treatment for rotavirus itself. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics.

Some treatments may be needed for symptoms caused by the infection. For example, dehydration may need to be treated with:

  • Rehydration fluids—such as an oral rehydration solution for children
  • IV fluids—if dehydration is severe

For children, the doctor may advise probiotics. Probiotics may help reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea symptoms.


Good hygiene is the best way to help reduce the spread of rotavirus. This includes taking the following steps:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • If someone in your house has rotavirus, encourage everyone to wash their hands more often.
  • Always wash your hands:
    • After using the toilet
    • After changing a baby's diaper or helping a child use the toilet
    • Before handling or preparing food

There is a vaccine to prevent rotavirus in babies. Your baby may need 2 or 3 doses between the ages of 2-6 months.


US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

US Food and Drug Administration


About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children

Health Canada


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Rotavirus vaccine access and delivery. PATH website. Available at: Published February 23, 2017. Accessed December 21, 2017.

Rotavirus vaccine live. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated December 6, 2017. Accessed December 21, 2017.

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4/28/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Sindhu KN, Sowmyanarayanan TV, et al. Immune response and intestinal permeability in children with acute gastroenteritis treated with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Infect Dis. 2014;58(8):1107-1115.

Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 12/20/2014