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Digestive Tract  
Digestive tract

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Definition  

Rotavirus is an infection of the stomach and intestines. It is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children.

Rotavirus can easily pass from person to person.

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Causes  

A rotavirus infection is caused by a specifc type of virus.

The virus is passed through the stool of someone with rotavirus. The infected stool can pass the virus to hands, surfaces, objects, food, or water. The virus then enters the body when any of these infected items come in contact with the mouth.

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Risk Factors  

People with the highest chance of rotavirus include:

  • Infants and young children
  • Children who attend daycare or any public childcare setting
  • Adults who care for young children, especially children who wear diapers
  • Children or adults with household members who have the virus
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Symptoms  

Symptoms of rotavirus may vary from person to person but may include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

These symptoms can range from mild to severe. They often last about 3 to 8 days.

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Diagnosis  

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may be able to diagnose the infection based on your symptoms. A stool sample may be taken. The sample will be examined for the presence of the virus.

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Treatment  

There is no treatment for rotavirus itself. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics.

Some treatments may be needed for symptoms caused by the infection. For example, dehydration may need to be treated with:

  • Rehydration fluids—such as Pedialyte for children
  • IV fluids—if dehydration is severe

For children, the doctor may advise probiotics. Probiotics may help reduce the duration and severity of diarrhea symptoms.

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Prevention  

Good hygiene is the best way to help reduce the spread of rotavirus. This includes, taking the following steps:

  • Wash your hands often.
  • If someone in your house has rotavirus, encourage everyone to wash hands more often.
  • Always wash your hands:
    • After using the toilet
    • After changing a baby's diaper or helping a child use the toilet
    • Before handling or preparing food

There is a vaccine to prevent rotavirus in babies. Your baby may need two or three doses between the ages of 2-6 months.