Vaccinate Your Baby

Rotavirus

Click on the photo above to open the Rotavirus page from the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases eBook!

The Disease

Rotavirus is a contagious disease caused by any one of three strains of rotavirus. Children who get infected may have severe diarrhea, often with vomiting, fever, and stomach pain. They can become severely dehydrated (loss of body fluids) and need to be hospitalized and can even die.

Infants and young children are most likely to get rotavirus; however, older children and adults can also get the disease. Among U.S. children, those at highest risk of getting the disease include those in child care centers or other settings with many young children. The most severe rotavirus disease occurs in unvaccinated children between 3-35 months old. Older adults and adults with certain risk factors are also at higher risk of getting rotavirus disease.

Rotavirus is easily spread. The virus is in the feces of infected people, and it can be spread by hands, diapers, toys, changing tables, or doorknobs that have a small amount of feces on them. Rotavirus can live on objects for several days unless it is killed by a disinfectant (cleaner that kills germs). It is very hard to prevent rotavirus with just hand washing and cleaning with a disinfectant.

The Statistics

Rotavirus is still the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and children worldwide. In 2008, rotavirus caused an estimated 453,000 deaths in children younger than 5 years of age.

Prior to the rotavirus vaccine recommendation in 2006 in the U.S., almost every child had been infected with rotavirus by age 5. Each year in the United States, the disease sent 200,000 children to the emergency room, 55,000 to 70,000 had to be hospitalized, and 20-60 died. If not vaccinated, children (even in the U.S.) are very likely to get infected.

The Vaccine

The rotavirus vaccine (RV) is the best way to protect children against rotavirus. There are two oral rotavirus vaccines available in the U.S. (RotaTeq® and Rotarix® ) and both are very effective at preventing severe rotavirus disease in infants and young children. For the best protection, children need two or three vaccine doses (depending on which vaccine is given). Both vaccines are given at 2 months of age and 4 months of age. RotaTeq® also requires a third dose given at 6 months of age.

Additional Resources

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