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Rotavirus - Fact Sheet for Parents

Diseases and the Vaccines that Prevent Them

Español: Rotavirus

What is rotavirus?

Rotavirus is a virus that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting. It affects mostly babies and young children. Diarrhea and vomiting can lead to serious dehydration (loss of body fluid). If dehydration is not treated, it can be deadly. The rotavirus vaccine protects against this illness.

What are the symptoms of rotavirus?

Rotavirus causes the following:

  • Fever
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain

Diarrhea and vomiting may last for 3 to 8 days. Children may stop eating and drinking while they are sick.

How serious is rotavirus?

Rotavirus can be very harmful. Diarrhea, vomiting, and fever can all cause a loss of body fluids. This leads to dehydration, which can be very dangerous, especially for babies and young children. Some children need an IV (needle in their vein) in the hospital to replace lost fluids.

How does rotavirus spread?

Rotavirus spreads easily. The virus is in the stool (feces) of people who are infected with the virus. It is spread by hands, diapers, or objects like toys, changing tables, or doorknobs that have a small amount of the stool on them. The disease commonly spreads in families, hospitals, and child care centers.

Rotavirus is a tough virus. It can live on objects for several days unless it is killed by a disinfectant (cleaner that kills germs). It is very hard to prevent rotavirus with just hand washing and cleaning with a disinfectant.

Vaccination is the best way to keep children safe from rotavirus.

What are RotaTeq® and Rotarix®?

RotaTeq® and Rotarix® are brands of rotavirus vaccine. They are given by mouth, not by a shot.

The rotavirus vaccines protect children by preparing their bodies to fight the virus. Almost all children (85 to 98 children out of 100) who get the rotavirus vaccine will be protected from severe disease caused by the virus. The vaccine won’t stop diarrhea or vomiting caused by other germs, though.

When should my baby get the rotavirus vaccine?

Babies should get the first dose of the rotavirus vaccine at 2 months of age. For both vaccine brands, babies get a second dose at 4 months. A third dose of RotaTeq® is given at 6 months.

The rotavirus vaccine should not be started after a baby is 15 weeks old. Babies should get all doses by 8 months of age.

Babies can get the rotavirus vaccine at the same time as other vaccines.

What can I do to protect my child from rotavirus? Vaccinate your child on time. Talk with your child’s doctor if you have questions. Keep a record of your child’s vaccinations to make sure your child is up-to-date.Why should my baby get the rotavirus vaccine?

The vaccine prevents almost all cases of serious diarrhea from rotavirus. Most children who get the vaccine will not get rotavirus diarrhea at all.

Is the rotavirus vaccine safe?

The rotavirus vaccine is very safe, and it is effective at preventing rotavirus disease. Millions of babies in the United States have gotten the vaccine safely.

Some studies have shown a small increase in cases of intussusception from rotavirus vaccine. Intussusception is a type of bowel blockage that is treated in a hospital. Some babies might need surgery. It happens in about 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 100,000 babies who get the vaccine. Intussusception usually happens within a week after the 1st or 2nd rotavirus vaccine dose.

Signs of intussusception include stomach pain, severe crying, vomiting, or blood in the stool. If your baby has stomach pain, he may pull his knees to his chest or move around more than usual to get comfortable.

If my baby does not get the rotavirus vaccine, will he get rotavirus?

Rotavirus is a very common disease. Almost all children in the U.S. are infected with rotavirus before they are 5 years old. Without the vaccine, children are very likely to get rotavirus diarrhea.

Before the vaccine, rotavirus sent more than 200,000 children in the U.S. to the emergency room each year. It caused 20 to 60 deaths each year, and 55,000 to 70,000 people needed care in the hospital.

Where can I learn more about the rotavirus vaccine?

To learn more about the rotavirus vaccine or other vaccines, talk to your child’s doctor.

Call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) or go to the CDC Vaccines web site and check out the following resources:


Fact Sheets for Parents
Diseases and the Vaccines that Prevent Them


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