Rotavirus gets its name from the fact that, under a microscope, the virus resembles a wheel. And you could say, like you might say about a wheel, rotavirus goes round and round. This nasty, potentially lethal bug causes severe acute gastroenteritis with diarrhea and vomiting, primarily in infants and young children. Fortunately, there are two rotavirus vaccines that can protect children from this disease.

If you wanted to learn more read the full article with Pritish Kumar Halder.

How Big a Problem Is Rotavirus Infection?

Prior to the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine, rotavirus infection was responsible for 200,000 emergency room visits, 55,000 hospitalizations, and 60 to 65 deaths each year in the U.S. Worldwide,

Rotavirus Infection

it is the leading cause of severe diarrhea among young children, leading to 2 million hospitalizations and more than 500,000 deaths of children ages 5 and under annually. Older children and adults can also be infected with the virus, but the illness is generally milder.

Rotavirus disease is highly contagious. The germ is present in the stool of an infected person and can remain viable for a long time on contaminated surfaces, including people’s hands. Children catch it by touching something that’s contaminated and then putting their hands in their mouth. The spread of rotavirus infection is a particular problem in hospitals and in day care settings, where it can be easily spread from child to child. It’s also easily spread by day care workers, especially when they change diapers without washing their hands afterward.

Symptoms of rotavirus infection, which may last up to eight days, include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and frequent, watery diarrhea. If it’s severe enough, the diarrhea can cause dehydration, and it’s the dehydration that’s responsible for the hospitalizations and deaths associated with this disease.

Rotavirus (RV) Vaccine

How Is the Rotavirus Vaccine Given?

There are two brands of the rotavirus vaccine — RotaTeq (RV5) and Rotarix (RV1). Both vaccines are given orally, not as a shot. The only difference is the number of doses that need to be given.

With RotaTeq, three doses are required. They should be given at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months. Rotarix only requires two doses — at 2 months and 4 months.

How Effective Is the Rotavirus Vaccine?

Studies of the rotavirus vaccine have shown that it can prevent about 74% of rotavirus infections. More importantly, it can prevent approximately 98% of severe infections and 96% of hospitalizations from rotavirus. In one Massachusetts hospital, in two years, the number of people with rotavirus dropped from 65 to three.

Is the Rotavirus Vaccine Safe?

Before being approved, the rotavirus vaccine was tested on more than 70,000 children and found to be safe. However, an earlier vaccine, called RotaShield, was removed from the market after being used for two years, because it was found to slightly increase the risk of intussusception — a condition in which the small bowel folds back inside another part of the intestine, causing a bowel obstruction.

The RotaTeq and Rotarix vaccines now in use do not appear to increase this risk and are considered safe.

Are There Some Children Who Shouldn’t Have the Rotavirus Vaccine?

Any child who has had a severe allergic reaction to an earlier dose of the rotavirus vaccine should not be given any more doses of the vaccine. If your baby has a moderate or severe illness at the time the vaccination is scheduled, wait until the baby has recovered before being vaccinated. Also, the CDC recommends that you check with your doctor if your baby’s immune system has been weakened. Things that could compromise the immune system include:

  • Exposure to HIV/AIDS or any other disease that involves the immune system
  • Treatment with long-term steroids
  • Cancer or cancer treatment with X-rays or drugs

Why the rotavirus vaccine is offered

Rotavirus is a highly infectious stomach bug that typically affects babies and young children, causing diarrhoea and vomiting, tummy ache and a high temperature.

Most children recover at home within a week. But some children may need to see a doctor.

Occasionally, treatment in hospital is needed for complications such as severe dehydration.

When babies can have the rotavirus vaccination

Rotavirus vaccination is available routinely on the NHS as part of the childhood vaccination programme for babies aged 8 weeks and 12 weeks.

Your baby needs 2 rotavirus vaccinations at least 4 weeks apart to be fully protected.

If they miss the 1st dose, they can have it at up to 15 weeks. If they miss the 2nd dose, they can have it at up to 24 weeks.

How the rotavirus vaccine works

The vaccine contains a weakened version of rotavirus.

This helps your baby build up immunity, so that the next time they come into contact with rotavirus they will not get the infection.

Effectiveness of the rotavirus vaccine

The rotavirus vaccine is very effective and gives good protection against rotavirus infection.

It’s possible for a baby to get a rotavirus infection after being vaccinated. But this is uncommon and it’s usually milder than it would have been if they had not been vaccinated.

Since its introduction into the vaccination programme, the rotavirus vaccine has significantly reduced the number of children who have diarrhoea and vomiting, and reduced the number of severe rotavirus infections.

It’s not known exactly how long it lasts, but research has shown that 2 doses of the vaccine can protect a child for several years.

What Are the Side Effects of the Rotavirus Vaccine?

With any vaccine there is chance of a serious allergic reaction. Signs of an allergic reaction can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Hives
  • Paleness
  • Fast heart beat

However, with the rotavirus vaccine, the risk of a serious reaction is extremely small.

Most children who get the vaccine have no problem at all. However, there is a slight chance your child may have temporary, mild effects following the vaccine including:

  • Increased irritability
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting