October 28, 2005 – Are You Rotavirus Ready?
Rotavirus is a highly contagious virus that infects nearly all children by their third birthday and is most prevalent from fall through spring. One common symptom of rotavirus is diarrhea. The rapid loss of fluids that accompanies diarrhea can lead to dehydration, during which the body does not have the water and salts (or electrolytes) it needs. Babies under one year of age, and especially those who have a fever become dehydrated most easily because of their smaller body weights. It is sometimes necessary for children to be hospitalized and rehydrated using intravenous fluids.
Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe, dehydrating diarrhea in infants and young children worldwide. In the United States, diarrhea and dehydration caused by rotavirus are responsible for an estimated 70,000 hospitalizations, 160,000 emergency room visits (an average of more than 3,000 visits per week), 500,000 visits to doctors’ offices, and up to an estimated 100 deaths a year (an average of nearly two deaths per week).
Rotavirus often begins with a fever and an upset stomach, as well as increased amounts of watery diarrhea several times a day. Anyone caring for small children should know how to monitor the symptoms of rotavirus. Call a health care provider immediately if your child has any of the following symptoms, which may be associated with rotavirus and dehydration:
- Frequent vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Lethargy (child won’t focus on you, is less responsive to touch or words)
- Less frequent urination
- No tears when crying
- Dry, cool skin
- Frequent, watery diarrhea (often foul-smelling, green or brown)
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Extreme thirst