What is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is a common illness among children and infants.  It causes severe diarrhea.  Every child is infected by the illness by the time they reach 5 years of age.  In less-developed countries, it is often unable to be treated due to lack of available medications.  In the more developed countries, a vaccine is widely available with many children receiving it as part of their immunization plans.  Adults can also contract Rotavirus.  It can be particularly harmful in adults with compromised immune systems.

The virus spreads through contact with infected stool. The contact can be indirect: a person who got in touch with the virus and did not wash their hands properly can carry it around and spread it throughout different surfaces such as doorknobs or handles. Particularly at risk are changing tables, day cares and other childcare facilities, hospitals and places in which it can easily occur that somebody gets in touch with small amounts of contaminated stool.

What are the Symptoms of Rotavirus?

Rotavirus infection symptoms usually show as fever and vomiting followed by abdominal pains and diarrhea. Those symptoms can appear 1 to 4 days after a person becomes infected with the virus.

Diarrhea can last several days.  Frequent diarrhea and/ vomiting may lead to dehydration in children, with the illness possibly becoming fatal if not treated swiftly.

How is Rotavirus Treated?

No specific medication is available to treat Rotavirus.  In many instances it will clear up completely on its’ own.  A healthcare provider may prescribe or recommend medications that will at the very least, alleviate symptoms.  Anyone with the illness, be it child or adult, should drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.  More severe cases of Rotavirus may require hospitalization in order to get fluids via intravenous treatment.

Last Reviewed:
October 09, 2016
Last Updated:
August 23, 2017
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