Rotavirus Infection (Viral Gastroenteritis)

Rotavirus infection is an illness of the gastrointestinal system, caused by the rotavirus. It is primarily seen in children who are 6-24 months of age. Outside of tropical countries where the illness is present year round; it is mainly prominent in cooler months.

Adults usually contract it from infants, but it has been associated with traveler’s diarrhea. The illness is characterized by nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Where does it occur?

It occurs worldwide.

How is it transmitted?

It is commonly transmitted by ingestion of fecal material of an infected individual through soiled hands, especially in day care settings. Rarely one contracts it from respiratory secretions or contaminated water.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is contagious from person to person if you ingest fecal material of an infected individual through soiled hands or rarely from respiratory secretions.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is low –medium for travelers depending on sanitary practices of food handlers.

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Symptoms develop within 1-3 days of exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms are usually vomiting, watery diarrhea and fever. Symptoms can be severe enough to cause dehydration. In many children the above symptoms can be preceded by a runny nose and cough

Is there any treatment?

Treatment is supportive with plenty of fluid and rest.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose illness?

Antigen tests are available to detect the virus in stool specimens or rectal swabs.

What preventive measures can be taken?

No specific measures are available; the rotavirus vaccine has been withdrawn from the market due to complications. Frequent hand washing and patronizing only sanitary restaurants lowers the risk.

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