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Rotavirus

By Alexis L. Sawyer, M.D.

Rotavirus image

Rotavirus gastroenteritis is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children less than 5 years of age. By age 3, most children have been infected by at least one strain of this virus.

Transmission

Rotavirus infection outbreaks most often occur during winter and spring months. The common mode of transmission is through the fecal-oral route; this meaning the virus is transmitted from hands or inanimate objects, after contact with infected feces, to the mouth.

Rotavirus Symptoms

Once a child has been exposed to the virus it takes about two days for symptoms to appear.  Rotavirus symptoms may include: 

  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal Pain

Typically, children will experience 24-48 hours of vomiting followed by three to nine days of diarrhea. This virus is extremely contagious with an incubation period of two to four days.

Managing Hydration

There is no specific treatment for rotavirus gastroenteritis.   Because severe diarrhea and vomiting can cause dehydration, Boys Town Pediatrics stresses the importance of maintaining proper hydration. 

Parents are encouraged to watch for signs of dehydration which may include, decreased urination (less than three times per 24 hours), lack of tears and/or dry lips and mouth.​ If you notice these signs, seek medical attention.

Prevention

The best way to prevent the rotavirus is to get vaccinated. This vaccine is given orally to infants at the two and four month or the two, four, and six month well check visit depending on which vaccine is used. This vaccine can significantly reduce the severity of the rotaviral infection. Make sure to discuss this vaccine with your pediatrician.