Rotavirus in the U.S.


Rotavirus was the leading cause of severe diarrhea among infants and young children in the United States before rotavirus vaccine was introduced in 2006. Prior to vaccine introduction, almost all U.S. children were infected with rotavirus before their 5th birthday. Each year, among U.S. children younger than 5 years of age, rotavirus led to

  • more than 400,000 doctor visits,
  • more than 200,000 emergency room visits,
  • 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations, and
  • 20 to 60 deaths.

Globally, rotavirus is still the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children. In 2013, rotavirus caused an estimated 215,000 deaths worldwide in children younger than 5 years old.

New Report on Rotavirus Outbreaks

CDC examined three rotavirus outbreaks in California in 2017, showing mostly mild to moderate illness among vaccinated and unvaccinated children and adults. But also, one unvaccinated child died.

Impact of Rotavirus Vaccine

Millions of U.S. infants have received the rotavirus vaccine since it became available in 2006. Rotavirus disease among infants and young children has since decreased significantly in the United States. Each year, the vaccine prevents an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 hospitalizations among U.S. infants and young children. Rotavirus illness has also decreased among older children and adults that are not vaccinated. Vaccinated children provide indirect protection to other people because they are less likely to get and spread the disease.

Seasonality of Rotavirus Illness

A person can get rotavirus disease at any time during the year but it is more common in the winter and spring. Before rotavirus vaccine was introduced in 2006, cases of rotavirus disease in the United States peaked in the winter and spring months, usually beginning in the Southwest part of the country during December and moving to the Northeast by April and May. However, this pattern has become less consistent since rotavirus vaccine was introduced in the United States.

People Most at Risk for Rotavirus Disease

Children are most at risk for getting rotavirus disease. Among U.S. children, those in child care centers or other settings with many young children are most at risk for infection. The most severe rotavirus disease occurs primarily among unvaccinated children aged 3 to 35 months old.

Older adults have a higher risk of getting rotavirus disease, and adults who:

  • care for children with rotavirus disease, or
  • have compromised immune systems, for example someone with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)

CDC Surveillance Systems

CDC and partners use the following surveillance systems to monitor trends in rotavirus activity, estimate the burden of rotavirus disease, and evaluate the impact of rotavirus vaccination in the United States:

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