Parents with baby

Rotavirus disease is most common in infants and young children, but older children and adults can get it too. The most common symptoms are severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. Getting a rotavirus vaccine is the best way to protect your child from the disease.

People who are infected with rotavirus shed the virus in their stool (poop). This is how the virus gets into the environment and can infect other people. If you get the virus in your mouth, you can get infected and sick. This can happen when you put unwashed hands or a contaminated object, food, or liquid into your mouth.

Once you’ve been in contact with the virus, it takes about two days for symptoms to appear. Some children are not able to drink enough liquids to replace the fluids lost from having diarrhea or vomiting. This can lead to severe dehydration (loss of body fluids), hospitalization, and even death.


Key Facts

  • Children are most likely to get rotavirus disease in the winter and spring (January through June).
  • Before rotavirus vaccine was introduced in 2006, rotavirus was the leading cause of severe diarrhea in U.S. young children. Most children were infected by age 5.
  • Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children worldwide.
  • There are two very effective vaccines to protect against rotavirus: Rotarix and RotaTeq. Both are given by putting drops of the vaccine into an infant’s mouth.
  • There is no antiviral drug to treat rotavirus infection. Antibiotic drugs will not help because antibiotics fight against bacteria not viruses.


Infant getting his diaper changed
The Virus Spreads Easily

Rotavirus is in the stool (poop) of infected people, and can be spread by hands, diapers, or objects such as toys, changing tables, or doorknobs that have a small amount of stool on them. The virus spreads easily.

Transmisson micrograph of Rotavirus
Transmisson Micrograph of Rotavirus

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among children. Globally, an estimated 215,000 children die every year from rotavirus.

Babies playing in a circle
Get Children Vaccinated

CDC recommends routine vaccination of infants with either of the available oral vaccines, RotaTeq or Rotarix. The vaccines help prevent severe diarrhea and vomiting caused by rotavirus.

Baby playing with toy
Good Hygiene is Important

In addition to rotavirus vaccination, good hygiene is important in keeping your child safe from rotavirus.

Prevention Tips

  • Rotavirus is very contagious. Hand washing and good hygiene are important but not enough to control the spread of rotavirus disease.
  • Rotavirus vaccination is the best way to protect your child from rotavirus disease.
  • CDC recommends that infants get vaccinated against rotavirus disease. Two vaccines are available:
    • RotaTeq® is given in 3 doses at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months.
    • Rotarix® is given in 2 doses at ages 2 months and 4 months.
  • The first dose of the rotavirus vaccine can be given as early as 6 weeks of age and should be given before 15 weeks of age. Infants should get all doses by 8 months of age.
  • Rotavirus vaccines will not prevent diarrhea or throwing up caused by other viruses, but they are very effective against rotavirus infection.