What is rotavirus?

Rotavirus is a virus that can cause gastroenteritis, the inflammation of the stomach and intestines.   If left untreated, rotavirus can be potentially fatal.

Who is at risk for rotavirus?

Young children and babies are most at risk for rotavirus, especially if they are frequently in a daycare setting. Rotavirus is most commonly spread person-to-person, but it can also be foodborne.

What are the symptoms of rotavirus?

Symptoms appear 2 days after infection occurs. Symptoms can last between 3 and 8 days, and rotavirus can reoccur. Symptoms include:

  • Severe watery diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite

Dehydration is another symptom associated with rotavirus. Dehydration is especially dangerous to babies and young children. Symptoms of dehydration may include:

  • Decrease in urination
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Dizziness
  • Crying with few or no tears
  • Fussiness or restlessness

How is rotavirus transmitted?

Rotavirus is easily transmitted between young children or babies. The disease can be spread either before or after symptoms occur. It can be passed from children to family members. Rotavirus is spread from a person’s body into the environment through their stool, usually when they are sick and during the first 3 days of recovery.

Rotavirus is spread by the fecal-oral route. It can be spread through contaminated hands, objects, toys, food, and water.

Rotavirus is most common from December through June.

How is rotavirus treated?

Rotavirus cannot be treated through antibiotics, and there is no antiviral medication to treat the disease. People with rotavirus should stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids or taking over-the-counter rehydration solution. In some cases, people may have to be hospitalized for treatment with IV fluids. Babies and young children are especially at risk for dehydration, so it is important to contact your healthcare provider if your child is showing symptoms of dehydration.

How can I prevent rotavirus?

Handwashing is an important step in preventing the spread of rotavirus. However, it is not enough to completely protect you against the disease. The best way to prevent rotavirus is to get the recommended vaccines:

  • RotaTeq ® (RV5), which is given in 3 doses at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months; or
  • Rotarix ® (RV1), which is given in 2 doses at ages 2 months and 4 months.

Both vaccines are given orally, and they are 85%-98% effective at preventing severe rotavirus in children and babies.

For more information about rotavirus, click here.