Diseases > Rotavirus
answered on this page:
- What is rotavirus?
- What are the symptoms of rotavirus disease?
- How many children are affected by rotavirus each year?
- How severe is rotavirus disease?
- How is rotavirus spread?
- Can a person get rotavirus gastroenteritis more than once?
- How is rotavirus gastroenteritis treated?
can I get a printable copy of more information? (.pdf)
(also called a Vaccine Information Sheet)
What is rotavirus?
Rotavirus is a virus (germ)
that causes severe diarrhea, usually with fever and
vomiting. Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe
gastroenteritis (diarrhea) in infants and young children
in the United States (U.S.). Worldwide, rotavirus is
a major cause of childhood deaths. Rotavirus can cause
children to lose body fluids very quickly and is especially
dangerous for children less than two years of age.
Children between 3 and 35 months of age have the highest
risk for getting the infection. Rotavirus causes seasonal
peaks of gastroenteritis from November to May each
What are the symptoms of rotavirus disease?
Rotavirus gastroenteritis usually starts with fever, an upset stomach, and
vomiting, followed by diarrhea. The watery diarrhea can be mild to severe and
generally will last for 3 to 9 days. Severe diarrhea can lead to a dangerous
depletion of body fluids called dehydration, which can result in death if
untreated. Virtually all children become infected with rotavirus in the first 3
to 5 years of life, but severe diarrhea and dehydration occur mainly among
children aged 3 to 35 months.
How many children are affected by rotavirus each year?
In the U.S., rotavirus
is responsible for approximately 5 percent to 10 percent
of all diarrhea among children less than 5 years of
because rotavirus causes more severe diarrhea than other
pathogens, it accounts for a greater proportion of severe
diarrhea cases (e.g., 40%-50% of diarrhea hospitalizations).
Rotavirus accounts for more than 500,000 physician
visits and approximately 50,000 hospitalizations each
year among children less than 5 years of age. An
estimated one in 200,000 children with rotavirus diarrhea
die from the complications of the infection.
is rotavirus disease?
In the first 5 years of life, four out of five children in the United States
will develop rotavirus diarrhea, one in seven will require a clinic or
emergency room visit, one in 78 will require hospitalization and it is
estimated that one in 200,000 children die from rotavirus diarrhea.
Rotavirus is very easy
to catch. Large amounts of rotavirus are shed in the
stool of infected persons and rotavirus is easily spread
on contaminated hands and objects. Children can spread
rotavirus both before and after they become sick with
diarrhea. They can sometimes pass the virus to other
members of the family and close contacts. In the U.S.,
rotavirus infections can cause diarrhea in adults caring
for children, in the elderly, and in adults who are
traveling, but less often than in children.
Can a person get rotavirus gastroenteritis more than once?
There are a number of
different strains of rotavirus than cause gastroenteritis
in humans; four strains are common in the United States.
Children can be infected with rotavirus more than
once, but usually the first infection is most severe
and each subsequent infection causes less severe disease.
- How is rotavirus
Giving special fluids by mouth (oral rehydration therapy) is the most
effective treatment. Oral rehydration prevents most dehydration. Parents of
children with severe diarrhea should start oral rehydration and take their
child for medical evaluation. Special fluids used for oral rehydration can be
found in most pharmacies or grocery stores and can be purchased without a
there a vaccine to prevent rotavirus gastroenteritis?
CDC's Advisory Committee Recommendation of a New Vaccine
to Prevent Rotavirus in CDC's
Press Release and Questions
and Answers about Rotavirus. Also, the MMWR dated
August 11, 2006 (Volume 55): Prevention
of Rotavirus Gastroenteritis Among Infants and Children.
- Glass RI, Kilgore PE, Holman RC, et al. The epidemiology of
rotavirus diarrhea in the United States: surveillance and estimates of disease
burden. J Infect Dis 1996;174:Suppl 1:S5-S11.
- Murphy TV, Gargiullo PM, Massoudi MS, et al. Intussusception among
infants given an oral rotavirus vaccine. N Engl J Med 2001;344:564-72.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Practice parameter: the management of
acute gastroenteritis in young children. Pediatrics 1996; 97:424-35.