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Rotavirus Infection - Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Mar 09, 2023   -  4 min read


Rotaviruses are among the most common causes of severe diarrhoeal disease in young children worldwide. Read the article to know more.


Rotaviruses are among the most common cause of severe diarrhoeal disease in young children worldwide. In 2004, it was estimated that rotavirus infections caused the death of approximately 475,000-580,000 people, primarily in developing countries. Even though viral strains vary greatly, five serotypes are responsible for most human rotavirus diseases. Rotaviruses, primarily transmitted through the fecal-oral route, affect most children worldwide before the age of three and in most developing countries before the first birthday.

In 2006, two new live, oral, attenuated rotavirus vaccines were approved. Both vaccines demonstrated good safety and efficacy in large clinical trials in Western industrialized countries and Latin America. In addition, careful monitoring has revealed no increased risk of intussusception in the groups vaccinated with either of the vaccines. Therefore the new rotavirus vaccines are routinely used in several developed and developing countries.

What Is Rotavirus?

The rotavirus is a common cause of gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu. The virus infects the intestines and stomach. It causes vomiting and diarrhea in babies and young children in particular. Infections are common in childcare centers during the winter and spring months. Infants need to be immunized against rotavirus. It can aid in the prevention of rotavirus infections.

What Causes Rotavirus Infection?

Rotavirus germs are found in a person's stool (poop) and can be spread to other surfaces through unwashed hands after using the restroom or changing diapers. Fecal-oral spread occurs when these germs come into contact with someone's mouth.

If the child has rotavirus, it can be found in their poop before symptoms appear and up to 10 days after they have subsided. Rotavirus can spread to the child's hands when they wipe after using the toilet. They risk contaminating anything they touch if they do not wash their hands.

Rotavirus can be transmitted without any symptoms. While the fecal-oral transmission is the most common, rotavirus can also be contracted by contacting the body fluids of someone who has it, such as sneezing on or touching doorknobs or toys touched by a child who has it.

Who Is at Risk of Rotavirus?

Children in daycare or other programs with many children are typically at greater risk. Children aged three months to three years who are not vaccinated are more likely to contract the most severe disease. In addition, some children can not receive the vaccine due to a history of allergic reactions to the vaccine ingredients or other medical reasons determined by a healthcare provider. Rotavirus can also infect adults. However, they are less prone to illness than young children. Adults who are susceptible to rotavirus include:

What Are the Symptoms of Rotavirus?

Rotavirus symptoms are most noticeable in children. Symptoms may appear within two days after being exposed to the rotavirus.

Rotavirus In Children

Severe diarrhea is the most common rotavirus symptom. Children can also encounter:

  • Vomiting.

  • Severe fatigue.

  • High fever.

  • Irritability.

  • Dehydration.

  • Abdominal pain.

In children, dehydration is the most serious concern. As they have lower body weights, this age group is more vulnerable to fluid and electrolyte loss from vomiting and diarrhea. The signs of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth.

  • Cool skin.

  • Lack of tears when crying.

  • Decreased frequency of urination (or fewer wet diapers in infants).

  • Sunken eyes.

Rotavirus In Adults

Adults may also experience some rotavirus symptoms, such as:

  • Vomiting.

  • Severe fatigue.

  • High fever.

  • Irritability.

  • Dehydration.

  • Abdominal pain.

However, many healthy individuals experience symptoms to a lesser extent. In addition, some adults with rotavirus may not show any signs.

How Is Rotavirus Diagnosed?

Doctors can usually diagnose if someone has stomach flu by their symptoms. Typically, no tests are required. However, if a child is extremely ill or has blood or mucus in their poop, a stool (poop) test may be advised to check for rotavirus and other germs that cause diarrhea. To rule out dehydration, the doctor may also order a urine (pee) test or a blood test.

How Is Rotavirus Treated?

There is currently no medication or treatment that can cure the rotavirus. The infection can be managed by a healthy diet and being well-hydrated. Drinking plenty of water, and electrolyte-containing fluids and avoiding foods containing high sugars, juices, and oily foods, as they aggravate diarrhea. Homemade electrolyte solutions are not advised since the combination of ingredients may not be appropriate. If possible, maintain a balanced diet to ensure adequate nutrition throughout the illness.

Can Rotavirus Be Prevented?

Washing hands thoroughly and frequently, especially after using the washroom and before preparing or consuming food, is the most effective way to avoid rotavirus infection. In addition, children who have rotavirus should stay home from childcare until the diarrhea has subsided.

The rotavirus vaccine can aid in the prevention of rotavirus. Approximately 70 percent of vaccinated children do not get infected by rotavirus. Those who are still infected experience much milder symptoms. Around 90 percent of vaccinated children are protected against severe rotavirus. It is a liquid given to babies between 2 and 4 months, then again at six months, depending on the vaccine brand. The Rotavirus vaccine is administered in three doses; at two, four, and six months or two doses at two and four months.

Both vaccines are administered orally, which means they are taken by mouth rather than through an injection. There is no vaccine for older children or adults. This is why doctors recommend getting the rotavirus vaccine for the child as soon as possible.

Babies with severe combined immunodeficiency or intussusception and those already critically ill should not receive the vaccine.


Rotavirus is an infection of the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and intestine). It can affect anyone, but it occurs most frequently in children. A health care provider must be contacted if the child has diarrhea and fever, common rotavirus symptoms. The doctor advises drinking plenty of fluids, resting, and fever-reducing medication. If the child is at risk of dehydration, the provider may recommend hospitalization for intravenous fluids. A majority of children recover from rotavirus with no long-term health consequences. Rotavirus vaccines are known to be safe and effective and can protect children and families.

Last reviewed at:
09 Mar 2023  -  4 min read




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