Rotavirus is a viral infection. It occurs in the digestive tract. In the US, it is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children.
The virus is passed easily from person to person. It starts with contact with infected stool. The virus is then passed by:
- Hand-to-mouth contact
- Touching any object or surface that has come into contact with the infected stool
The following are at an increased risk for contracting rotavirus:
- Children between the ages of 4-24 months
- Children who attend daycare or any public childcare setting
- Older adults who care for young children
Symptoms of rotavirus may vary from person to person. There may be no symptoms. They may also range from to mild to severe. Symptoms include:
- Diarrhea that lasts from 3-9 days
- Abdominal pain
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Tests may include the following to confirm the diagnosis:
- Stool sample analysis
Rotavirus does not respond to antibiotics. There is no treatment for rotavirus itself. The virus may cause dehydration , which may require treatments such as:
- Rehydration fluids—includes children's drinks (eg, Pedialyte) to restore minerals lost due to the diarrhea
- Intravenous (IV) fluids—If dehydration is severe, IV fluids may be given at the hospital
Good hygiene is the best way to help reduce the spread of rotavirus. It is not 100% effective and does not kill the virus. To help reduce your chances of getting rotavirus, take the following steps:
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
US Food and Drug Administration
About Kids Health
Infectious disease: rotavirus. The Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/rotavirus/DS00783/DSECTION=4 . Accessed April 15, 2007.
Rotavirus. Directors of Health Promotion and Education website. Available at: http://www.dhpe.org/infect/rot.html . Accessed April 15, 2007.
Rotavirus facts. Rotavirus Vaccine Program website. Available at: http://www.rotavirusvaccine.org/ . Accessed April 15, 2007.
Last reviewed February 2009 by Igor Puzanov, 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.
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