What is rotavirus?

Emmanuel Ashong, MD
Rotavirus is a virus that causes severe, watery diarrhea, fever, vomiting and stomach pain. It's one of the most common causes of diarrhea in children and can spread like wildfire. Called rotavirus because under the microscope the virus looks like a wheel, the disease is common during the winter in schools and daycare centers.

Rotavirus is easily spread, especially among young children who don't always wash their hands after using the bathroom or before eating. Vaccination is an important line of defense.
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Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhea in children in the United States. The most common age to get rotavirus is between 3 and 35 months. Rotavirus usually happens from November to May, but can happen at any time. Adults sometimes get rotavirus, but it is usually a mild illness. It takes 1 to 4 days from contact with the virus until a person gets sick.

Rotavirus is a virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea (loose stools). Babies and children can get sick quickly because they can lose a lot of fluids from the body. A child with vomiting, diarrhea and fever may become dehydrated (dried out) more quickly.

  • The virus is found in the stool (bowel movement), which may be
          watery, green and foul-smelling.
  • The virus may be in your child's bowel movements one to three days
          before he gets sick. He may be ill for up to 10 days.
  • Rotavirus can affect people of all ages, but it is usually worse in children
          6 to 24 months old.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Rotavirus causes severe acute gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) that can lead to hospitalization and death. By the time children are two years of age, the vast majority have had a rotavirus infection, and if so, are protected from this virus family going forward.
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YOU: Raising Your Child: The Owner's Manual from First Breath to First Grade

There’s little doubt that parenting can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences you’ll ever have. But it can be plenty tough, too: Around the clock, you’re working to keep your...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.