Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among children. The disease is characterized by vomiting and watery diarrhea for 3 to 8 days, commonly with fever and abdominal pain.
In the United States and other countries with a temperate climate, the disease has a winter seasonal pattern. with annual epidemics occurring from November to April. The highest rates of illness occur among infants and young children; most children in the United States are infected by age 2. Rotavirus is responsible for the hospitalization of approximately 55,000 children each year in the United States and the death of more than 600,000 children annually worldwide, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The primary mode of transmission is fecal-oral, although some have reported low titers of virus in respiratory tract secretions and other body fluids. Due to the endurance of the virus in the environment, transmission can occur through ingestion of contaminated water or food and contact with contaminated surfaces.
Billions of rotavirus particles are passed in the stool of the infected individual. Small numbers of the rotavirus can lead to infection if a baby puts fingers or other objects contaminated with the virus into the mouth. Young children can pass it on to siblings and parents.
Immunity after infection is incomplete. but recurrent infections tend to be less severe than the original infection.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms for rotavirus can range from mild to severe. The following are the most common symptoms of rotavirus. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include.
Signs of dehydration include: thirst, irritability, restlessness, lethargy, sunken eyes, a dry mouth and tongue, dry skin, fewer trips to the bathroom to urinate, and (in infants) a dry diaper for several hours.
The diagnosis is determined by rapid antigen detection of rotavirus in stool specimens.
Rotavirus is the most common diagnosis for young children with acute diarrhea, but other causes may include bacteria (Salmonella, Shigella, Campylobacter are most common), parasites (Giardia and Cryptosporidium are most common), localized infection elsewhere, antibiotic-associated adverse effects (such as those related to treatment for Clostridium difficile), and food poisoning. Noninfectious causes include overfeeding (particularly of fruit juices), irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease, milk protein intolerance, lactose intolerance, cystic fibrosis, and inflammatory bowel syndrome.
For a person with a healthy immune system, rotavirus gastroenteritis is a self-limited illness, lasting only days. Treatment is nonspecific and consists of oral dehydration therapy to prevent dehydration.
Anti-diarrheal medication should not be given to children unless directed to do so by the physician. Antibiotic therapy is not useful in viral illness. Specific drugs for the virus are not available.
The best way to prevent the disease is by proper food handling and thorough hand washing, after using the toilet and whenever hands are soiled. In child care centers and hospital settings, the staff should be educated about personal and environmental hygiene. All dirty diapers should be regarded as infectious and disposed of in a sanitary manner.
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