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Rotavirus Infection

Rotavirus is one of the main causes of severe diarrhea in children under the age of five.

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It can lead to severe dehydration and prove to be fatal in young children. This infection is very common in children of developing countries. Vaccination can prevent the disease in children and oral rehydration therapy can save the life of an infected child. Let’s see more about the rotavirus infection in the following paragraphs.

What is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is a contagious virus that leads to severe diarrhea in infants and children. It is a double-stranded RNA virus of the Reoviridae family. The five species of Rotavirus include A, B, C, D and E.

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Rotavirus usually spreads through improper hand-washing. It enters the stomach and causes inflammation of the stomach and intestinal lining. Thus, leading to severe watery diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever. Rotavirus infection can lead to severe dehydration in infants and young children turning into a medical emergency. It is a serious infection as it causes about half a million deaths annually in children under the age of 5 years.

Signs and Symptoms of Rotavirus Infection

Every child will have at least one rotavirus infection before they turn five, according to studies. After infection, the immunity against the virus develops and any subsequent infection leads to less severe consequences. However, the first 48 hours after an infection the child is highly contagious. Thus, keep the child isolated and away from other children to prevent spread of infection.

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The signs and symptoms of rotavirus include:

  • Fever and vomiting in the initial stages of the infection
  • Severe watery diarrhea, in some cases bloody diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dehydration- dry mouth, little or no urination, unresponsiveness
  • Loss of appetite

How Does Rotavirus Spread?

Rotavirus spreads through the oral-fecal route. The virus is shed in the feces of the infected person. Improper hand-washing leads to spread of infection through the mouth. It can also spread by contamination of toys, surfaces, objects, etc.

It is very important to wash hands after cleaning the baby’s bottom or changing diapers. Babies and children become infected after they put contaminated objects in their mouth. The virus can also spread through contaminated food and water.  

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Diagnosis of Rotavirus Infection

Rotavirus infection is usually diagnosed based on the symptoms and analysis of stool sample helps confirms the diagnosis.

Treatment of Rotavirus Infection

There is no specific treatment for the rotavirus infection. As it is a viral infection, antibiotics are of no use. The condition usually resolves in a week, but the main object of the treatment plan is to prevent dehydration.

The doctor will ask the parent to give the child plenty of fluids. An oral rehydration fluid  will be prescribed to replace lost minerals and electrolytes in the body. In case of dehydration, the child will be hospitalized and kept on intravenous fluids.

Prevention of Rotavirus Infection

Sanitation plays an important role in prevention. However, the best way to avoid an infection is vaccination. There are two vaccines against rotavirus, Rotarix and RotaTeq. Both oral vaccines containing attenuated live virus are equally effective in prevention of the infection.

The rotavirus infection can prove to be fatal, if not treated early. Thus, make sure you vaccinate children under 6 months of age against rotavirus.

Written by: healthplus24.com team

Date last updated: March 22, 2015