Diarrhea Home > Rotavirus

Rotavirus is a virus that can cause severe diarrhea, fever, and vomiting in people who become infected with it. It is often spread when a person comes in contact with a contaminated surface or ingests contaminated food or water. Infections with this virus are especially common in children under the age of 5. Treatment consists of caring for the symptoms while the body kills the virus.

What Is Rotavirus?

Rotavirus is a virus that can cause severe diarrhea, usually with fever and vomiting. It is the leading cause of diarrhea in infants and young children in the United States and worldwide. Rotavirus results in the hospitalization of approximately 55,000 to 70,000 children each year in the United States and the death of over 600,000 children annually worldwide.
 
Almost all children in the United States are likely to be infected with this virus before their fifth birthday.
 

Understanding Rotavirus

Rotaviruses are members of the Reoviridae family of viruses. Rotavirus is a double-stranded RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus. This virus has a characteristic wheel-like appearance when viewed by electron microscopy. The name rotavirus is derived from the Latin word "rota," meaning "wheel" (see Rotavirus Pictures).
 
There are a number of different strains of rotavirus that cause infections in humans; four strains are common in the United States. Children can be infected with the virus more than once, but usually the first infection is the most severe, and each subsequent infection causes less severe symptoms of the disease.
 
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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