Rotavirus is transmitted through the fecal-oral route. In countries where tap water is not cleaned well enough, rotavirus infection can spread through water. In addition, back in 1993, a study was conducted in kindergartens, in which the virus was detected on the surface of telephones, and drinking fountains.
Rotavirus is easily spread among young children, who, in turn, pass it on to family members and other people with whom they communicate. Adults may also get infected but the illness is usually less severe than that in infants and young children. After the onset of symptoms, the virus continues to be excreted with feces for up to ten days (and in people with an immunodeficiency - up to a month). Proper hygiene, that is, washing your hands and maintaining cleanliness is important but sometimes not enough.
Why is rotavirus dangerous?
According to the World Health Organization, rotavirus infection is the cause of a quarter of all diseases associated with acute diarrhea in children under five years of age. In the European region, it leads to the death of more than ten thousand children every year.
After one to three days of the incubation period (when the virus has entered the body but its symptoms have not yet appeared), an infected person experiences vomiting, diarrhea, fever, weakness, and pain in the abdomen. These symptoms usually last from three to eight days and can lead to serious complications, including dehydration. At the same time, a person loses more fluid than is consumed.
Dehydrated children have dry skin, tongue, and mouth, belly cramps, nausea, crying without tears, a temperature of 104 F, vomiting, and frequent watery diarrhea. Adults experience a temperature higher than 103 F, blood in vomit, excessive thirst, little or no urination, severe weakness, and dizziness on standing. This condition is life-threatening which means that it must be treated in a hospital under the supervision of doctors. If you suspect dehydration, seek medical help immediately.
How to treat rotavirus infection?
A gastroenterologist will base a diagnosis on a physical exam and questions about your symptoms. He won’t prescribe you any medications since specific anti-rotavirus drugs don’t exist and antibiotics are useless for obvious reasons. Your doctor will help you relieve symptoms. First of all, you need to replenish the fluids in the body with rehydration fluids.
During rotavirus treatment, eat broth-based soups and bland foods, try to avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, and fatty foods since these foods will lead to intestinal irritation and deterioration. It’s also important for both adults and children to drink plenty of fluids and eat soft foods in order to avoid irritation to the digestive tract. The American Academy of Pediatricians for severe diarrhea recommends monitoring body temperature of the child, paying attention to such dangerous signs as blood in the stool, and not making a mixture to replenish lost minerals on your own.
How to prevent rotavirus?
Rotavirus vaccination is the best way to prevent rotavirus, especially in children since they are the most prone. Washing the hands regularly and particularly before eating is an additional preventive measure. There are two available vaccines to prevent rotavirus: Rotarix and RotaTeq. If an infant is under 8 months of age, it’s recommended to receive immunization with vaccines. However, if you notice symptoms of rotavirus in your child, you need to call your doctor immediately to prevent complications including severe dehydration.
Last updated February 18, 2020