Rotavirus Impact: Stress for the Whole Family
Severe Diarrhea in Child Puts Emotional and Economic Strain on Families
WebMD News Archive
Oct. 11, 2005 (Washington) -- A leading cause of gastrointestinal upset in
children causes fear, stress, anxiety, and disruption in normal family life,
Duke University researchers report.
Rotavirus results in sudden and severe bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. The
CDC states that it is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in children,
resulting in around 600,000 global deaths in children less than 5 years of age
each year. In the U.S. it is the cause of 45% of diarrhea cases and is
responsible for 500,000 doctor visits annually.
"Little has been known about the impact of the virus on people's every
day lives," Carla DeMuro Mercon, MS, of the epidemiology department of
Merck & Co. "Doctors need to know the emotional and economic stress
this puts on a family."
In a study of 16 parents, researchers found that parents were alarmed at the
severity of the diarrhea and the force of the vomiting. The researchers
reported their findings at the American Academy of Pediatrics Conference and
Exhibition in Washington.
The study involved parents of children, aged 2 months to 3 years, who
visited two Duke University clinics or the emergency room with symptoms of
rotavirus. Of 61 consenting parents, 44 parents provided stool samples from
their children, of which 27 were confirmed with rotavirus. Researchers then did
in-depth interviews with 17 parents of children diagnosed. Participants
included 12 women and 5 men, average age was 32 years. Interviews were
conducted between 2004 and 2005.
Parents reported that the virus placed an emotional and financial strain on
the family, Mercon says.
Comments of Parents
Even though most of the parents were experienced, having gone through this
with another child, they expressed fear and anxiety.
"The majority of parents were not first-timers; they have 'been there,
done that' before," says Mercon. "Most reported alarm and panic over
the severity of the diarrhea and the vomiting."
One mother described it as "hell," another commented, "we got
home from church, I fed him lunch and he threw up in the den until
"The child was irritable, crying, clingy, and wouldn't eat," she
says. "All parents talked about the inability to keep their child dry. They
finally would just let them run around in their diaper because they couldn't
keep clean clothes on them. Meanwhile parents talked about the constant
cleaning and disinfecting the house."
The rotavirus affected the whole family, she notes.
The study found that parents on average took off work for two to three days,
other children couldn't participate in activities, the diaper and disinfectant
bill increased as well as doctor's visits, parents reported. "It has an
emotional as well as an economic impact on the family," Mercon says.
Parents were scared that they weren't doing the right thing," she