Rotavirus Causes Severe Diarrhea in Kids

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Dr. Ryan Van Ramshorst
Dr. Ryan Van Ramshorst

Mega Doctor News

The bottom line: Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children worldwide, especially in children under 2 years of age. The highly contagious viral infection attacks the stomach and intestines and leads to high fever, vomiting, and persistent diarrhea. Vaccination is the best way to prevent rotavirus in infants and young children.

The highly contagious illness is most common in the winter and spring months. Rotavirus is a viral infection of the stomach and intestines that leads to high fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, and persistent diarrhea. It spreads easily among children (and sometimes to older children and adults around them) by coming into contact with an infected person’s stool, or poop.

“Rotavirus is horrible,” said Dr. Ryan Van Ramshorst, a pediatrician in San Antonio. “At its best, rotavirus causes the discomfort of severe diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. At its worst, rotavirus can lead to severe dehydration (lack of water in the body), sending kids to the hospital,” said the member of TMA’s Be Wise –ImmunizeSM Physician Advisory Panel. “And children die around the world from rotavirus infection.”

U.S. children who attend child care centers or who are in settings with lots of young children are most at risk for rotavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The most severe cases typically occur in children aged 3 months to 3 years.

Fortunately, the Texas Medical Association’sTexas Medicine magazine reports, children can avoid this severe illness by getting vaccinated.

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The introduction of a rotavirus vaccination in 2006 greatly reduced the number of cases in the United States. Before the vaccine, rotavirus sent more than 400,000 kids to the doctor, and 200,000 kids to the emergency department each year, according to the CDC. And as many as 60 children under age 5 died every year.

No specific medication can treat rotavirus infection, said Dr. Van Ramshorst. “You can help prevent infection by washing your hands thoroughly,” he said, adding, “Vaccination is the best prevention.”

Two vaccines, given to children before their first birthday, protect against rotavirus, said Dr. Van Ramshorst. “Both vaccines are oral vaccines, given as drops in the mouth.” The rotavirus vaccine prevents the illness in most children (nine out of 10).