Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children 6 months to 2 years of age.
Rotavirus vaccine is provided free to healthy babies at 2 and 4 months of age as part of routine immunization. The vaccine is given by mouth. A few drops of liquid vaccine will be placed into a baby’s mouth to swallow. The vaccine prevents about 3 out of 4 cases of rotavirus disease and almost all severe cases, including hospitalizations. Rotavirus vaccine is not recommended for babies older than 8 months of age.
Almost all children have had a rotavirus infection by the time they are 5 years of age. Some adults in contact with infected infants catch the virus but may not have symptoms. Children who have been infected once can get infected again. In Canada, rotavirus infections are more common in the winter months. Outbreaks in child care centres are common. As more children get immunized the rates of rotavirus will go down.
After someone is exposed to the virus it takes 1 to 3 days for signs to appear. The virus can remain in the stools for up to 21 days after the signs begin.
It is important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Some children with dehydration may need to be treated in hospital.
Rotavirus is spread if people with the virus do not wash their hands after going to the toilet.
Dirty hands can easily spread rotavirus by touching people, food, drinks, of objects such as sinks, taps, toys and other things in the environment.
That’s why frequent hand washing, cleaning the environment and getting infants vaccinated are the keys to prevention.