In infants and young children, rotavirus is one of the most common causes of severe diarrhea. Stomach flu (misnamed because it is not caused by the influenza virus) is caused by several viruses, one of which is rotavirus. There are five types of rotavirus. The most common is rotavirus A. Although rotavirus infections are extremely common, immunity to the specific strain develops following the initial infection. Therefore, subsequent infections result in less severe symptoms.
Rotavirus is transmitted by the fecal-oral route, meaning that it is present on unwashed or insufficiently washed hands and is accidentally ingested. Once in the body, it infects cells lining the small intestine and causes symptoms of gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines), such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Rotavirus accounts for up to 50% of hospitalizations for severe diarrhea in infants and children. Approximately half a million children under the age of five years die from rotavirus each year, with more than two million becoming severely ill. Since 2009, the World Health Organization has recommended the inclusion of rotavirus vaccination in national immunization programs. Prior to the initiation of the rotavirus vaccination program in the United States, it is estimated that rotavirus caused 2.7 million cases of severe gastroenteritis, 60,000 hospitalizations, and 37 deaths yearly. Rotavirus infections generally peak during the winter months, starting in the late fall and ending in the early spring. Of current interest to scientists are the effects of diet, malnutrition, and breast milk on the efficacy of vaccines.

Related Terms

Adult diarrhea rotavirus, ADRV, CAL, dehydration, diarrhea, dysentery, electrolyte imbalance, fecal incontinence, gastroenteritis, incontinence, infant diarrhea, Reoviridae (family), RIX4414, Rotarix®, RotaTeq®, rotaviral gastroenteritis, rotavirus A, rotavirus B, rotavirus C, rotavirus D, rotavirus E, rotavirus vaccine, RV5, RVGE, sedoreovirinae, serotypes, severe wild-type rotavirus gastroenteritis (RGE).

types of the disease

There are five species of rotavirus (rotaviruses A through E). Rotavirus A is the most common type of rotavirus infection in humans. It is the species of rotavirus that is common in hospitalized infants, daycare centers, and nursing homes.
Rotaviruses B and C are less common than rotavirus A. Rotavirus B is commonly called adult diarrhea rotavirus, or ADRV. It has caused major epidemics of diarrhea, occurring as a result of sewage contamination of drinking water, in mainland China. Rotavirus C-associated diarrhea is rare, but outbreaks have occurred.
Different serotypes (strains) of each rotavirus species also exist. Serotypes are differentiated by compounds (proteins) found on the surface of the virus.