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Disease: Rotavirus Rotavirus
Category: Infectious diseases
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Disease Definition:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common cause of severe diarrhea in infants and children worldwide is Rotavirus. By the age of 2 or 3, most children have at least one bout with rotavirus.

Most of rotavirus infections can be treated at home with extra fluids to prevent dehydration, despite the fact that they're unpleasant. Intravenous fluids are sometimes required in the hospital in severe cases of dehydration. In developing countries, dehydration is a serious complication of rotavirus and a major cause of childhood deaths.

In spring and winter, rotavirus infections are most common. Rotavirus infection can be prevented by vaccines in infants. However, washing hands frequently is the best line of defense for older children and adults who aren't as likely to develop serious symptoms of rotavirus.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


The infection usually starts with a fever, followed by three to eight days of vomiting and watery diarrhea. Abdominal pain may also be caused by the infection. Only mild signs and symptoms, or none at all, may be caused by a rotavirus infection in adults who are otherwise healthy.

Parents should call their child's doctor if the child:


  • Has signs or symptoms of dehydration, such as dry mouth, unusual sleepiness, unresponsiveness, little or no urination or crying without tears
  • Has frequent episodes of vomiting for more than three hours
  • Seems lethargic, irritable or in pain
  • Has a temperature of 38.9 C (102 F) or higher
  • Has severe or bloody diarrhea

If an adult has one of the following, the doctor must be called:


  • Signs or symptoms of dehydration, such as excessive thirst, lightheadedness, dizziness, dry mouth, little or no urination or severe weakness
  • Frequent episodes of vomiting for more than two days
  • A temperature higher than 40 C (104 F)
  • Vomiting blood
  • Not being able to keep liquids down for 24 hours
  • Blood in the bowel movements


Several days before symptoms appear for up to 10 days after symptoms subside, rotavirus will be present in an infected person's stool. Even if the infected person doesn't have symptoms, the virus can spread through hand-to-mouth contact throughout this time.
The virus can spread to anything the person touches, including utensils, toys and food, if that person has rotavirus and doesn’t wash their hands after using the toilet, or if their child has rotavirus and they don't wash their hands after changing the child's diaper or helping the child use the toilet. An infection may follow if another person touches the unwashed hand or a contaminated object and then touches his/her mouth.
Contaminated water or infected respiratory droplets sneezed or coughed into the air may also spread rotavirus in some cases.
It's possible to be infected more than once because there are many types of rotavirus; but repeat infections are typically less severe.
In children ages 4 months to 24 months, those who spend time in child care setting in particular, rotavirus infections are most common. There is also an increased risk of infection in older adults and adults caring for young children.



Dehydration, particularly in young children, might be caused by severe diarrhea. The condition may become life-threatening in case it is left untreated. 


Rotavirus infection doesn’t have a specific treatment. Within three to eight days, the infection usually resolves itself. The biggest concern of rotavirus infection is preventing dehydration.

The patient should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration while the virus runs its course. If the child has severe diarrhea, especially if it lasts longer than a few days, he/she could be given an oral rehydration fluid. A rehydration fluid can replace lost minerals more effectively for children than can water or other liquids. Intravenous fluids in the hospital may be required in severe cases of dehydration.


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