What Is Rotavirus?
Rotavirus is a highly contagious virus that infects nearly all young children and is one of the most common and serious causes of severe diarrhea in the US
Before there was a rotavirus vaccine, almost all US children were infected with rotavirus before their 5th birthday. Each year in the US, rotavirus was responsible for:
- More than 400,000 visits to healthcare professionals’ offices
- More than 200,000 emergency room visits
- Up to 70,000 hospitalizations
- 20-60 deaths
Since the vaccine was introduced in 2006, rotavirus disease has become less common.
- Each year, the vaccine prevents an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 hospitalizations among US infants and young children.
- Rotavirus illness has also decreased among older children and adults.
Most recent rotavirus outbreaks have been caused by low vaccination rates, which is why it is important to ensure your child is fully vaccinated.
Although symptoms of rotavirus vary, children may experience fever, upset stomach and vomiting, along with frequent watery diarrhea, sometimes multiple times a day. Symptoms usually start 2 days after exposure to rotavirus and typically last 3-9 days.
More severe symptoms may include loss of appetite and dehydration, which can be especially dangerous for infants and young children.
Rotavirus is much more common in infants and young children. Older children and
adults who get sick from rotavirus tend to develop milder symptoms.
Getting vaccinated is a safe and effective way to help protect against rotavirus disease. There are 2 rotavirus vaccines currently licensed for infants in the US. The 1st dose of either vaccine should be given before a child is age 15 weeks. Children should receive all doses of rotavirus vaccine before they turn 8 months old.
There are no specific medications available to treat rotavirus infection. To relieve symptoms and prevent dehydration, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids, such as over-the-counter rehydration solutions that can be found in drug stores. Patients who have severe dehydration may need to be hospitalized so they can receive fluids through their veins.
Updated March 2023
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention