Although it is more likely to affect a child than an adult, a rotavirus can develop in people who have reached maturity. Adults most likely to be infected with a rotavirus include people with children affected by the virus, the elderly, and people with conditions that affect the immune system. When the virus does develop in an adult, rotavirus symptoms are usually not as severe as those seen in children and include diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Treatment consists of reducing or relieving symptoms while the body fights the rotavirus infection.
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 can also occur in adults. An adult rotavirus infection is less common and usually less severe. In adults, rotavirus infection most often is seen in:
- Family members of affected children
- The elderly
- People with conditions that decrease the function of the immune system (or those people taking medications that do so), such as people with HIV, AIDS, or cancer.
Rotaviruses are members of the Reoviridae family of viruses. Rotavirus is a double-stranded RNA (ribonucleic acid) virus. A rotavirus 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. Therefore, people can be infected with rotavirus more than once, but usually, the first infection is the most severe, and each subsequent infection causes less severe symptoms of the disease.