Rotavirus is the most common contagious virus that causes diarrhea. Before the vaccine was developed, most children were infected with the virus at least once by the age of 5.
Although rotavirus infection is undesirable, it can be treated at home with extra fluids to prevent dehydration. Occasionally, severe dehydration requires receiving fluids through a vein (intravenous) in the hospital.
Good hygiene such as washing your hands regularly is most important. But the best way to prevent rotavirus infection is to get vaccinated.
Rotavirus infection usually begins within two days of exposure to the virus. The initial symptoms are fever and vomiting, followed by diarrhea for three to seven days. Infection can also cause abdominal pain.
In healthy adults, rotavirus infection can cause only mild signs and symptoms or none at all.
Two days before the appearance of rotavirus symptoms in the stool of an infected person and up to 10 days after the symptoms subside. Throughout this time the virus is easily spread through hand-to-mouth contact – even if the infected person has no symptoms.
If you have rotavirus and do not wash your hands after using the toilet or if your child has rotavirus, do not wash your hands after changing your baby’s diaper or helping your baby use the toilet – the virus can spread to you. Touch includes food, toys, and utensils. If another person touches your unwashed hands or dirty object and then touches his mouth, the infection can occur. Areas that have not been disinfected for weeks or months may be infected with the virus.
Even if you are vaccinated, you can be infected with the rotavirus more than once. However, recurrent infections are generally less severe.
Rotavirus infection is most common in children 3 to 35 months of age, especially those who spend time in childcare settings. Older adults and adults caring for young children have a higher risk of infection.
In the United States, the risk of rotavirus is higher in winter and spring.
Severe diarrhea can lead to dehydration, especially in young children. If left untreated, dehydration can become a life-threatening condition regardless of its cause.