What You Need to Know About Rotavirus Diarrhea

What is rotavirus diarrhea?

Rotavirus diarrhea is the diarrhea caused by rotavirus infection. This is the most common cause of diarrhea and death due to diarrhea through the world among infants (below one year of age) and young children below five years of age. But unfortunately more than half (in developing and underdeveloped countries the unawareness is much higher) of mothers are unaware or little aware of rotavirus infection. It is estimated that by the age of five years almost every child through the world has been infected with rotavirus at least once. But the brighter side is that, every infection with the virus makes the child more immune against the organism and by adult age individuals become seriously affected or if affected, remain asymptomatic.

What is the mode of transmission?

Rotavirus infection is transmitted by feco-oral route via contact with contaminated objects and contaminated surfaces. Only 10-100 virus particles can transmit the disease and it is estimated that every gram of infected person's feces contain more than 10 trillions of virus particles, which can explain the high infectivity of the disease. The worst part is that, the virus can not be eliminated by normal sanitary measures used for drinking water supply.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The signs and symptoms include watery diarrhea, vomiting and low grade fever. There may be abdominal pain in some cases.

The incubation period is generally two days. The first symptom is usually vomiting, which is followed b profuse diarrhea, both of which lead to severe dehydration. Death occurs due to dehydration.

What is the treatment?

The treatment of rotavirus diarrhea is mainly symptomatic and nonspecific. The main aim of treatment is replacement of lost fluid (through diarrhea and vomiting) and maintenance of hydration. In mild to moderate dehydration, oral rehydration salt (ORS) is sufficient to replace lost fluid, but in severe dehydration intravenous fluid must be given. If treatment is started early, prognosis is excellent with almost no complication.

How to prevent rotavirus diarrhea?

At present there are two (both are approved by USFDA for use) safe and effective vaccinations are available for prevention of rotavirus infection. One is produced by GlaxoSmithKline (brand name is Rotarix ) and the other is produced by Merck (brand name is RotaTeq ). In many countries including United States rotavirus immunization has become routine with very good results.

Improved sanitation does not reduce incidence of rotavirus infection and vaccination remaining only effective way to prevent the disease.