What is Rotavirus Infection?
Rotavirus infection is the number one cause of severe viral gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) in the world.
Primary rotavirus infection is particularly common in children 6 months to 2 years of age.
Rotavirus Infection Causes
Infectious gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) may be caused (in order of frequency) either by viral, bacterial, or fungal agents. There are four viral families that cause the bulk of gastroenteritis. As stated above, rotavirus is responsible for the large majority of illness both worldwide and in the United States. Infection by the norovirus family is implicated in approximately one-third of all viral illnesses causing vomiting and diarrhea. Two other viral families (adenovirus and astrovirus) each cause
a low percentage of intestinal disease.
Rotavirus Infection Symptoms and Signs
While children are the predominant victims of rotavirus infection, adults (often caretakers or parents of these children) may experience the same symptoms of fever, vomiting, and non-bloody diarrhea. Studies have shown a broad range of response to rotavirus infection -- all the way from total lack of symptoms to severe illness that may be associated with dehydration and circulatory collapse. Hospitalized patients often have a total duration of disease averaging eight days. As would be expected, those who are less ill and remain at home tend to have less intense symptoms and generally recover more quickly. Some studies of children with rotavirus infection have pointed out that children may have respiratory symptoms (runny nose and cough) coexistent with their intestinal manifestations. Other researchers counter that an alternative interpretation of these findings implies two separate but simultaneous illnesses. Adults tend not to experience respiratory symptoms during a rotavirus illness.
Complications of rotavirus infection are relatively rare. Important exceptions are those infections in people with weakened immune systems (premature and newborn infants or the elderly). When access to modern medical supportive care is available (for example, IV solutions) severe morbidity and death are rare. However in developing nations, where such services are scarce or unavailable, rotavirus infection may be life-threatening.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/29/2015
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