Rotavirus

What is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is a viral illness that causes fever and severe vomiting and diarrhea in infants and young children.


Children between six months and 24 months of age are most at risk for Rotavirus. In fact, of all the people hospitalized for Rotavirus, 63% of them are children who are younger than two years of age.


By three to five years of age, 95% of children have been sick with Rotavirus.


Rotavirus can lead to dehydration and, though rare in Canada, can even result in death. Worldwide, more than 500,000 deaths in young children are caused, each year, by Rotavirus.


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How is Rotavirus spread?

Rotavirus is highly infectious and easily spread through direct contact with the stool (feces) of an infected person. It can also spread indirectly to children if they touch toys or other things (like change tables) that are contaminated with an infected person’s stool.


Only a very small exposure to the virus is needed to cause infection.


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What Causes Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is caused by a virus that is easily spread through the stool (feces) of an infected person. Rotavirus can be found in the stool of an infected person from a few days before the person starts to show symptoms, until 21 days after the person shows symptoms.


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What are the symptoms of Rotavirus?

Rotavirus starts with fever and severe vomiting, followed by watery diarrhea lasting up to a week.


Some children may experience only vomiting.


Rotavirus can cause dehydration so severe as to require hospitalization.


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What can happen to my child if he or she gets Rotavirus?

If your child gets Rotavirus, he or she will get a fever, followed by severe vomiting and watery diarrhea that can last up to a week. Rotavirus can also cause your child to get dehydrated, or develop what is called an “electrolyte imbalance”. This can result in your child needing hospital care. Sadly, Rotavirus can even lead to death.


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Is there a treatment or cure for Rotavirus?

There is no specific treatment for rotavirus. Children sick with Rotavirus may be given fluids orally (by drinking them), or even by IV in a hospital. In addition to the fluids, a child sick with Rotavirus may also be given electrolytes orally or through IV, to help prevent or treat dehydration.


It’s important to know that even if your child gets sick with Rotavirus once, your child can still get it again. This is why it’s important to ensure your child is immunized against Rotavirus, which will prevent your child from getting Rotavirus at all.


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What is the name of the immunization that protects against Rotavirus?

The vaccine your child will be given to protect him or her against Rotavirus is call “Rotarix”. Rotarix will prompt your child’s immune system to build antibodies – or “armour” – to protect your child from Rotavirus.


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Are there side effects to the rotavirus vaccine?

Most children have no reaction to the Rotavirus vaccine. If your child does experience side effects, they are usually very mild and temporary, including fever, short-term diarrhea and/or vomiting, irritability and fussiness, loss of appetite, cough and runny nose, skin rash or inflammation (sometimes called “dermatitis”)


If your child is going to experience these symptoms, he or she will usually have them within one week of getting immunized against Rotavirus.


Very rarely, more serious side-effects can occur. If your child has severe stomach pain, constant vomiting, blood in his or her stool (feces), a swollen stomach (abdomen) area and/or very high fever following Rotavirus immunization, it’s important that you call your doctor or Health Link Alberta (at 811) to discuss.


Remember: the risk that Rotavirus poses to your child’s health is far greater than any risk related to immunizing your child against Rotavirus.


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Is this disease called any other names?

No, Rotavirus is not commonly called any other names.


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