Fast Facts about Rotaviruses

Rotaviruses are the leading cause of both routine vomiting and diarrheal illnesses and of severe, life-threatening diarrhea in every country in the world. Click here to read more about rotaviruses.

  • About 50,000 children are hospitalized in the United States each year for rotavirus infections (JAMA 1998;279:1371-6).
  • Rotaviruses cause about 1 in 78 children in the United States to be hospitalized before they enter kindergarten.
  • They are the leading cause of both routine vomiting and diarrheal illnesses and of severe, life-threatening diarrhea in every country in the world.
  • Almost every child on the planet becomes infected by age 5 (Pediatrics 1996;97:7-13).
  • 900,000 young children around the world die each year from rotaviruses (New England Journal of Medicine 1996;335:1022-28). Most of these deaths occur in developing countries.
  • In the US, rotaviruses are responsible for more than 3.5 million diarrheal illnesses, half a million physician visits, 50,000 hospitalizations, and 20 tragic deaths each year (JAMA 1998;279:1371-6). Those who are admitted to the hospital stay for an average of four days.
  • The extreme dehydration that can be caused by rotaviruses is second only to the dehydration caused by cholera.
  • Rotaviruses are extremely contagious. They originate in the stool, but are found throughout the environment wherever young children spend much time, especially during the winter months.
  • Rotavirus particles remain active on human hands for at least 4 hours, on hard dry surfaces for 10 days, and on wet areas for weeks.
  • There is a fairly rapid test for rotavirus diarrhea. The direct-antigen test can give results in 24 hours.
  • In February 2006, the FDA approved a new rotavirus vaccine called “RotaTeq.” It is given orally to children at 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months of age. This vaccine has been shown to significantly reduce severe and life-threatening cases of rotavirus.

 

Last medical review on: November 01, 2006
About the Author
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Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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