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Vaccine for Infant Tummy Bug Cuts Hospitalizations

Fewer children admitted for severe diarrhea tied to rotavirus, researchers say
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Steven Reinberg

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 9, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Since the introduction of rotavirus vaccine in 2006, the number of kids hospitalized for severe diarrhea has dropped dramatically, a new study finds.

Rotavirus is a common cause of sometimes severe gastrointestinal infections in babies and young children.

However, by 2009-2010, hospitalizations for rotavirus among children under 5 had been reduced by 94 percent due to widespread vaccination, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

"We looked at the impact of rotavirus vaccines, comparing hospitalizations and emergency department visits during the years after the vaccine was introduced, to the years before the vaccine was introduced," said lead researcher, CDC epidemic intelligence service officer, Dr. Eyal Leshem.

"We saw a substantial reduction in hospitalizations, emergency department visits and outpatient visits after the vaccine was introduced," he said.

The drop in hospitalizations and emergency room visits for rotavirus also had an impact on U.S. health care costs. During 2007 to 2011, rotavirus vaccination reduced diarrhea-related health care visits by 1.5 million visits, for a savings of $924 million, Leshem's group found.

The report was published online June 9 and in the July print issue of Pediatrics.

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea disease in young children throughout the world, according to the World Health Organization. WHO estimated that approximately 500,000 children under 5 die each year from rotavirus infections. The vast majority are in low-income countries.

Children who get infected may have severe, watery diarrhea, often with vomiting, fever and stomach pain. Vomiting and diarrhea can last up to eight days. Other symptoms include loss of appetite and dehydration, which can be especially serious in infants and young children, according to the CDC.

There are two oral vaccines approved for rotavirus: Rotarix given in two doses at 2 months and 4 months; and RotaTeq, which requires three doses at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months. After initial vaccination, no booster doses are needed. Both vaccines are safe and effective, Leshem said.

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