Prevent Rotavirus

Photo: Babies

Rotavirus causes diarrhea and spreads easily among infants and young children. Some children may get severe diarrhea, become dehydrated and need to be hospitalized. Protect your child with rotavirus vaccine.

Rotavirus disease is common among infants and young children. Rotavirus can cause severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. Some children with rotavirus disease lose a lot of fluids and become very dehydrated. As a result, they may need to be hospitalized and can even die.

Rotavirus spreads easily among children. A child can get rotavirus by accidentally getting (stool) poop into their mouth from another child who has rotavirus. This can happen if a child puts their unwashed hands or a contaminated object, food, or liquids into their mouth. In the United States, children are more likely to get rotavirus from December to June.

Children are most likely to get rotavirus disease in the winter and spring (December through June).

Rotavirus Can Cause Dehydration

Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Decrease in urination
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Feeling dizzy when standing up

A dehydrated child may cry with few or no tears and be unusually sleepy or fussy.

Prevent Dehydration

You can help prevent your child from getting dehydrated by having them drink plenty of liquids. Oral rehydration solutions (ORS) are helpful to prevent and treat dehydration. These are commonly available in food and drug stores. If you are unsure about how to use ORS, call your doctor.

Protect Your Child with Rotavirus Vaccine

The best way to protect your child from rotavirus is with rotavirus vaccine. Almost all children who get rotavirus vaccine (85 to 98 percent) will be protected from severe rotavirus disease. Most vaccinated children will not get sick from rotavirus at all.

There are two different rotavirus vaccines. Both are given by putting vaccine drops in an infant’s mouth.

  • Rotateq® – Infants should receive three doses of this vaccine—at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age.
  • Rotarix® – Infants should receive two doses of this vaccine—at 2 months and 4 months of age.
  • Children should receive the first dose of either vaccine before they are 15 weeks old and all doses they turn 8 months old.

Millions of Infants Have Been Vaccinated

Millions of infants in the United States have gotten rotavirus vaccine safely. However, some studies have shown a small increase in cases of intussusception from rotavirus vaccination. Intussusception is a bowel blockage that is treated in a hospital and may require surgery. It is estimated that risk of intussusception is 1 in every 20,000 infants to 1 in every 100,000 infants after vaccination. Intussusception is most likely to happen within the first week after the first or second dose of rotavirus vaccine.​

CDC continues to recommend that infants receive rotavirus vaccine. The benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the small risk of intussusception. Thanks to the rotavirus vaccine, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of children who are hospitalized or visit the emergency room because of rotavirus illness in the United States.

Paying for Rotavirus Vaccines

Most health insurance plans cover the cost of vaccines. However, you may want to check with your insurance provider before going to the doctor. If you don’t have health insurance or if your insurance does not cover vaccines for your child, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program may be able to help. This program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. To find out if your child is eligible, visit the VFC website or ask your child’s doctor. You can also contact your state VFC coordinator.

Did You Know?
Photo: Mom tickling baby

Fewer children get rotavirus vaccine compared with other childhood vaccines. Rotavirus vaccine is very effective, especially against severe disease. By vaccinating their infants, parents can protect their children against rotavirus, which is very contagious and causes outbreaks.

Learn about past outbreaks of rotavirus that affected unvaccinated and vaccinated children, and caused severe disease and the death of a child. Learn more about rotavirus outbreaks.

Page last reviewed: January 15, 2019