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Rotavirus in Children

How Is It Transmitted?

Rotavirus transmission in children occurs through contact with contaminated stool that then gets ingested (this is called the fecal-oral route). Because rotavirus is stable in the environment -- meaning it can live for a long time outside of a host -- transmission in children can occur quite easily through the following methods:
  • Ingestion of contaminated food or water
  • Direct contact with contaminated surfaces and then putting the hands in the mouth.
Children can spread the virus both before and after they become sick with diarrhea. They can sometimes pass the virus to other members of the family and to close contacts.

Incubation Period

Once the rotavirus has entered the body, it travels to the small intestine, where it begins to multiply. Approximately two days later, symptoms can begin. This period between infection with the rotavirus and the beginning of symptoms is known as the "rotavirus incubation period."

Symptoms of Rotavirus in Children

Not all children who are infected with rotavirus will develop symptoms associated with the virus. If rotavirus symptoms do occur, the illness begins suddenly. Common symptoms in children include:
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • High fever (greater than 102.2°F)
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Severe dehydration
  • Mucus in stool.

Making a Diagnosis

In order to make a rotavirus diagnosis, the doctor will ask a number of questions about the child's medical history and will likely perform a physical exam, looking for signs and symptoms of rotavirus. If the doctor suspects rotavirus, he or she may test the stool for it.
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