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Rotavirus

Definition

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

Digestive Tract
Digestive tract

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Causes

This problem is caused by a specific type of virus. It spreads through the stool of someone with the infection. 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

This problem is more common in children who are 4 months to 2 years of age. Children in childcare settings are at higher risk.

Symptoms

Problems vary from person to person and may be mild to severe. Problems may be:

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. A stool sample may be taken to identify the virus.

Treatment

Most people get better on their own in 3 to 8 days. The goal is to manage symptoms and promote healing. Choices are:

  • Drinking plenty of fluids or an oral rehydration solution
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Anti-nausea medicines
    • Nitazoxanide to ease diarrhea in children
  • Probiotics or zinc supplements to reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea in children

Prevention

There is a vaccine to prevent rotavirus in babies. It is given as 2 or 3 doses between the ages of 2 to 6 months.

The risk of viral infection may also be lowered by:

  • Practicing proper handwashing, especially after using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • Not touching the mouth
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are infected
RESOURCES:

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov

US Food and Drug Administration
http://www.fda.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Bányai K, Estes MK, et al. Viral gastroenteritis. Lancet. 2018 Jul 14;392(10142):175-186.

Rotavirus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/rotavirus/index.html. Accessed March 8, 2021.

Rotavirus. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/vaccine-preventable-diseases/Pages/Rotavirus.aspx. Accessed March 8, 2021.

Rotavirus gastroenteritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/rotavirus-gastroenteritis. Accessed March 8, 2021.

Rotavirus vaccine live. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/drug-monograph/rotavirus-vaccine-live. Accessed March 8, 2021.

Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 3/8/2021