Rotavirus is a virus that infects
intestinal tract of almost all young children by age
can get rotavirus more than once, but the first infection is usually the
worst. This infection causes stomach upset and diarrhea.
very young children who have rotavirus infections need to be watched closely,
because they can become
dehydrated very quickly. Dehydration occurs when the
body loses water more quickly than it is replaced. When your child becomes
dehydrated, severe health problems can arise.
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spread easily. Outbreaks usually occur in the winter and early spring. Rotavirus infections often spread in settings where
many children are together, such as day care centers.
spreads through contact with the stool from an infected child. The virus can spread easily even when people try very hard to keep places clean. For
example, when a caregiver changes the messy diaper of a child who has rotavirus
infection, germs can get on the changing table, the caregiver's hands, or the
hands of the already-infected child. The rotavirus germs can then spread to
other children from the caregiver's or child's unwashed hands. It may be only a
few steps to the sink, but the germs may get on surfaces that the caregiver or
child touches along the way. For example, the germs may get on toys, doorknobs,
or sink surfaces. The germs can live for days on objects and surfaces if they
are not disinfected right away.
Other children who get the
rotavirus germs on their hands can get the infection when they put their hands
in their mouths. They can also get infected with rotavirus by chewing on a toy
that has the germs on it.
What are the symptoms?
It takes about 1 to 3 days
for a child who is exposed to the virus to start having symptoms.
Vomiting is often the first symptom. Usually, a fever and diarrhea
follow. Most children with rotavirus have very watery diarrhea that seems like
a large amount for a baby or small child. The most severe diarrhea lasts 4 to 8
days. But episodes of diarrhea can last long after your child starts feeling
better. In some children, diarrhea can last for a few weeks.
Diarrhea, especially when it occurs along with vomiting, can quickly lead
to dehydration in babies and young children who have rotavirus. For this
reason, it is important to keep feeding your child and to watch him or her closely for signs of dehydration.
How is rotavirus diagnosed?
Your doctor will
probably diagnose your child with
rotavirus infection based on his or her symptoms. The
time of year also is an important clue. If your child has diarrhea and other
symptoms during the winter or early spring (about November through April), your
doctor will often suspect rotavirus as the cause.
A test of stool
can be done to confirm a diagnosis. This kind of test is not needed unless your
child has other health conditions that make it important to know the exact
cause of symptoms.