Rotavirus is an infection of the stomach and intestines. It is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children.
Rotavirus can easily pass from person to person.
A rotavirus infection is caused by a specifc type of virus.
The virus is passed through the stool of someone with rotavirus. The infected stool can pass the virus to hands, surfaces, objects, food, or water. The virus then enters the body when any of these infected items come in contact with the mouth.
People with the highest chance of rotavirus include:
- Infants and young children
- Children who attend daycare or any public childcare setting
- Adults who care for young children, especially children who wear diapers
- Children or adults with household members who have the virus
Symptoms of rotavirus may vary from person to person but may include:
- Watery diarrhea
- Abdominal pain
These symptoms can range from mild to severe. They often last about 3 to 8 days.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The infection may be diagnosed based on your symptoms. A stool sample may be taken. The sample will be examined for the presence of the virus.
There is no treatment for rotavirus itself. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics.
Some treatments may be needed for symptoms caused by the infection. For example, dehydration may need to be treated with:
- Rehydration fluids—such as an oral rehydration solution for children
- IV fluids—if dehydration is severe
For children, the doctor may advise probiotics. Probiotics may help reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea symptoms.
Good hygiene is the best way to help reduce the spread of rotavirus. This includes taking the following steps:
- Wash your hands often.
- If someone in your house has rotavirus, encourage everyone to wash their hands more often.
Always wash your hands:
- After using the toilet
- After changing a baby's diaper or helping a child use the toilet
- Before handling or preparing food
There is a vaccine to prevent rotavirus in babies. Your baby may need two or three doses between the ages of 2-6 months.
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
US Food and Drug Administration
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
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Rotavirus gastroenteritis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 7, 2013. Accessed February 20, 2013.
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12/14/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Leder K, Sinclair M, Forbes A, Wain D. Household clustering of gastroenteritis. Epidemiol Infect. 2009;137(12):1705-1712.
4/28/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Sindhu KN, Sowmyanarayanan TV, et al. Immune response and intestinal permeability in children with acute gastroenteritis treated with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Infect Dis. 2014;58(8):1107-1115.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Kari Kassir, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.