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(Viral Gastroenteritis)

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Rotavirus is a viral infection of the digestive tract. In the United States, rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children.

Digestive Tract

Digestive tract

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.


Rotavirus is passed easily from person to person via hand-to-mouth contact from infected stool. Rotavirus can also be contracted by touching any object or surface that has come into contact with infected stool.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.

The following demographics are at an increased risk for contracting rotavirus:

  • Children between the ages of 4-24 months
  • Children who attend daycare or any public childcare setting
  • Older adults who care for young children


Symptoms of rotavirus may vary from person to person, from no symptoms, to mild-to-severe. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea that lasts from 3-9 days
  • Abdominal pain


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam to diagnose rotavirus. Tests may include the following to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Stool sample analysis


Rotavirus does not respond to antibiotics. There is no treatment for rotavirus, but treatments are required to prevent dehydration . These treatments include:

  • Rehydration fluids—Rehydration fluids include children's drinks, such as Pedialyte, formulated to restore minerals lost due to the diarrhea.
  • Intravenous fluids—If dehydration is severe, intravenous fluids administered at the hospital may be required to restore the body's fluids lost during the infection.


Good hygiene is the best way to help reduce the spread of rotavirus, but it is not 100% effective and does not kill the virus. To help reduce your chances of getting rotavirus, take the following steps:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Always wash hands:
    • After using the toilet
    • After changing a baby's diaper or helping a child use the toilet
    • Before handling or preparing food.
  • Get a rotavirus vaccination for babies and young children.


US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

US National Library of Medicine


BC Health Guide

Health Canada


Infectious disease: rotavirus. The Mayo Clinic website. Available at: . Accessed April 15, 2007.

Rotavirus. Directors of Health Promotion and Education website. Available at: . Accessed April 15, 2007.

Rotavirus facts. Rotavirus Vaccine Program website. Available at: . Accessed April 15, 2007.

Last reviewed April 2008 by David Horn, MD, FACP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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