Josie Evans

What is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among infants and young children. It is a genus of double-stranded RNA virus in the family Reoviridae.

Until 1973, no infectious agents could be identified in about 80% of patients admitted to hospitals with severe dehydrating diarrhea. In 1973, Ruth Bishop, Geoffrey Davidson, Ian Holmes, and Brian Ruck found abundant particles of a 'new' virus called rotavirus in the cytoplasm of mature epithelial cells.

Rotavirus affects majorly the stomach and intestines. Rotavirus causes extreme dehydration and diarrhea among children, leading to hospitalization and even death. There are 8 types of Rotavirus: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H. Rotavirus A is the most common type and is the source of 90% of rotavirus cases.

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Causes of Rotavirus include mainly contact between humans, spreading the infection.


Rotaviruses have now been shown to cause 40-50% of severe acute diarrhea in young children worldwide in both developing and developed countries, and > 600 000 young children die annually from rotavirus disease, predominantly in South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Studies following primary infection in young children have shown that rotavirus reinfections are common.

Rotavirus mainly affects infants and small children, but if not handled correctly, can spread to anyone. Rotavirus is most common in third-world countries, but still occurs in countries such as the US and European countries. Each year, approximately 111 million people have gastroenteritis requiring only home care, 25 million clinic visits, 2 million hospitalizations, and 352,000–592,000 deaths (median, 440,000 deaths) in children <5 years of age.

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Signs and Symptoms

  • Severe or bloody diarrhea
  • Frequent episodes of vomiting
  • A temperature of 103 degrees F or higher
  • Lethargy, irritability, or pain
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Blood in vomit

Diagnosis and Treatment

Although rotavirus infections are unpleasant, you can treat most of them at home with extra fluids to prevent dehydration. Occasionally, severe dehydration requires intravenous fluids in the hospital. Dehydration is a serious complication of rotavirus and a major cause of childhood deaths in developing countries. There is no known cure for Rotavirus.


There are no ways to prevent Rotavirus, but you can keep it from progressing and getting worse, by drinking plenty of water and staying away from others until you are told that you aren't contagious anymore.
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