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Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among children. The disease is characterized by vomiting and watery diarrhea for 3 to 8 days, commonly with fever and abdominal pain.

In the United States and other countries with a temperate climate, the disease has a winter seasonal pattern, with annual epidemics occurring from November to April. The highest rates of illness occur among infants and young children; most children in the United States are infected by age 2. Rotavirus is responsible for the hospitalization of approximately 55,000 children each year in the United States and the death of more than 600,000 children annually worldwide, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


The virus lives in the bowels of infected children and is present in the diarrhoea that an infected child produces. It can be spread either through droplets in the air, or through infected surfaces or materials such as a child’s potty, or clothing. The virus then enters the body through the mouth or nose.

The virus can be spread while your child has diarrhoea, and for around 48 hours after symptoms have stopped.

Symptoms and Signs

Rotavirus symptoms such as including:

  • Fever 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal Cramps
  • Diarrrhea

Some children also have a stuffy nose and cough. Most older children and adults have immunity and will not get sick from rotavirus.

Diagnostic tests

The diagnosis is determined by rapid antigen detection of rotavirus in stool specimens.

Rotavirus is the most common diagnosis for young children with acute diarrhea, but other causes may include bacteria (Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter are most common), parasites (Giardia and Cryptosporidium are most common), localized infection elsewhere, antibiotic-associated adverse effects (such as those related to treatment for Clostridium difficile), and food poisoning. Noninfectious causes include overfeeding (particularly of fruit juices), irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, milk protein intolerance, lactose intolerance, cystic fibrosis, and inflammatory bowel syndrome.


For a person with a healthy immune system, rotavirus gastroenteritis is a self-limited illness, lasting only days. Treatment is nonspecific and consists of oral rehydration therapy to prevent dehydration.


Make sure everyone in your family washes their hands after:

  • Using the toilet,
  • Changing nappies,
  • Handling soiled clothing and linen,
  • Cleaning up diarrhoea or vomit , and
  • Assisting children with going to the toilet.

You can also prevent the spread of rotavirus by:

  • Washing linen and clothing soiled with diarrhoea and vomit on as hot a wash as possible,
  • Keeping soiled washing away form the rest of your washing,
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