Rotavirus

1 What is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is responsible to cause diarrhea in infants and children worldwide, according to centers for disease control and prevention.

Before the discovery of vaccine every child in their life at least had one bout by age 5.

Rotavirus infections are unpleasant and they require extra fluids such as electrolytes and water. Occasionally intravenous ingestion of fluids in the hospitals is required in severe conditions.

The most serious complication of rotavirus is dehydration resulting in death of infants.

For children vaccination can prevent rotavirus infection.

But for adults who aren’t likely to develop this disease the best line of defense for them is washing their hands regularly and maintaining healthy hygienic conditions will become their best line of defense.

2 Symptoms

Fever and vomiting are the initial symptoms of rotavirus infection. Water diarrhea is seen from three to eight days of infection.

In adults who are healthy rotavirus infection may cause some mild signs and symptoms or no symptoms at all.

When to seek supervision of doctor?

Call your doctor immediately if your child has severe bloody diarrhea with frequent intervals of vomiting for more than three hours.

Temperature of child was around 103F (39.4*C) or higher. If the child looks lethargic, irritable or in pain has signs and symptoms of dehydration such as dry mouth, crying without tears, little or no urination, unusual sleepiness or unresponsiveness.

  • If you are an adult the following symptoms might be indicator.
  • If you are suffering from vomiting for two or more days.
  • If you have blood in your stools.
  • If you have any signs of dehydration such as: dry mouth, decreased urination, decreased sweating, dry skin, dryness in your eyes.
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3 Causes

The cause of rotavirus infection is the virus itself which spreads through hand-to-mouth contact throughout the time of infection. It spreads even after the symptoms disappear because the virus remains in the stool for up to 10 days after the symptoms decrease.

After cleaning stools of a child infected with rotavirus, if a person does not wash his/her hands there are chances that the virus will spread through all the things that the person will touch.

Other people who touch the contaminated hands, an infection may follow in them.

Sometimes recurrent infection occurs but they are less severe than the first one and they occur in spite of vaccination. 

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of rotavirus is based on symptoms and a physical exam.

In case the rotavirus infection, visit a gastroenterologist or an infectious disease specialist.

The doctor would have several questions

About the history of illness such as

  • When did symptoms begin?
  • Which medications were given?
  • Did the condition become better or worse?
  • Also the doctor would ask questions about the history of the child like: Which pregnancy?
  • How is the living condition?
  • Vaccinations and Allergies?

For proper diagnosis, the doctor would perform a thorough physical check-up special emphasis on tongue and other organs of gastro-intestinal tract looking for signs and symptoms of rotavirus.

Most often, clinician would ask for some tests to confirm the diagnosis which include:

It is always advisable to ask questions to the doctor that a person might have.

5 Treatment

Rotavirus is a self-limited disease lasting for about 10 days. That is why there is no specific treatment and antibiotics will not work against a virus.

The aim of the doctor is to prevent dehydration within the course of infection since extreme dehydration is the main danger of this disease.

The treatment consists of oral rehydration therapy such as Pedialyte and drinking lots of fluid be it water or other liquids.

Intravenous fluids in hospitals are required in cases of severe dehydration.

6 Prevention

Prevention is better than cure, so prevention of rotavirus is also important and includes the following steps:

  • Washing hands regularly with a good quality soap for at least a minute after using toilet, after helping a child using toilet or cleaning stools of an infant.
  • Maintaining proper hygiene and cleanliness in the house.

Vaccinations

RotaTeq (This vaccine is given orally at the age of 2 months, 4months and 6 months). Although few cases of intussusception in which a part of intestine folds into another part, has been reported to occur.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that the number of cases of intussusception in vaccinated children was similar to the number of cases in unvaccinated and came to the conclusion that this vaccine is not the cause of intussusception.

RotaShield - was removed from the market in 1999.

Rotarix - This is a newer vaccine without any association to intussusception. It is given in two doses at 2 months and 4 months.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Since rotavirus is not a severe life-threatening disease, most often alternatives anf home remedies help to recover from the situation.

Some of them include:

  • raisins which fulfills body’s need of potassium,
  • salty food-this can replenish the salt lost due to diarrhea,
  • popsicle-helps restore water loss,
  • banana and watery fruits can help in fast recovery.  

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary for your child in order to cope with rotavirus.

In case of an infection in baby, small amounts of fluids should be offered at frequent intervals.

If the baby is breast-fed there is no need of adding oral rehydration fluids but if the baby drinks formula, oral rehydration fluids can be given at regular intervals.

There is no need of diluting the formula. If an older child has infection, he/she should get enough rest, drink plenty of fluids including oral rehydration formula (Pedialyte) and eat non-spicy easily digestible food.

If an adult has contracted the rotavirus infection the following things can be tried to reduce diarrhea and vomiting:

  • ice chips, 
  • drink water or clear soda like ginger ale, and broths.

In all cases avoid food which can worsen diarrhea like apple juice, milk products, chocolates and sugary food and for adults it is always recommended to avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine since they increase bowel movements

9 Risks and Complications

Age is the major risk factor in case of rotavirus.

Most often children between ages 4 months to 24 months contract this infection because their immune system is not developed properly.

Other age groups are less likely to get an infection. Those people who spend a lot of time in child care settings and public daycare, older people taking care of young children have high chances of infection.

Another major risk factor is unhygienic places where proper cleanliness rules are not followed.

There are no major complications of Rotavirus, only dehydration can become a life-threatening situation due to unconsciousness particularly in young children.

Otherwise Rotavirus is a self-limiting disease. 

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