Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea in children and infants worldwide. Globally, rotavirus kills about 450,000 children under age 5 each year, with most of these deaths occurring in developing countries. link The virus can spread quickly in creches and household, mainly by the fecal-oral route, by toddlers putting their fingers or a contaminated object into their mouths. The virus is stable in the environment and can live on contaminated surfaces or objects for up to 10 days, and occasionally lives in water or food. The infection can usually be treated at home with extra fluids to prevent dehydration. Good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly, is important. But vaccination is the best way to prevent rotavirus infection.
The most common symptom of rotavirus infection is watery diarrhoea. The infection can also cause fever, abdominal pain, and vomiting. Otherwise healthy adults who contact rotavirus may experience little or no signs of infection.
To reduce the spread of rotavirus, wash your hands thoroughly and often — especially after you use the toilet, change your child’s diaper or help your child use the toilet. However, strict hand-washing doesn’t offer any guarantees. The infection is caused from the waste of an infected person to the mouth of another individual. This can occur via contamination on hands or objects such as toys. Because most severe cases of rotavirus gastroenteritis occur earlier in life, vaccination of children older than 24 months is not encouraged. link
There are two vaccines available to prevent rotavirus infection:
- RotaTeq. This vaccine is given by mouth in three doses, often at ages 2 months, 4 months and 6 months. The vaccine is not approved for use in older children or adults.
- Rotarix. This vaccine is a liquid given in two doses to infants at ages 2 months and 4 months.