The Facts about Rotavirus

Australian Health Today - - Section Name -

Chil­dren un­der 2 years old are sus­cep­ti­ble to a range of in­fec­tions and nas­ties due to their de­vel­op­ing im­mune sys­tems, and rotavirus ranks up there as one of the most com­mon. Rotavirus is es­sen­tially a highly in­fec­tious form of gas­troen­teri­tis and be­fore the vac­cine was in­tro­duced in 2007 it af­fected al­most ev­ery child un­der the age of

5. The virus re­mains the most com­mon cause of se­vere gas­troen­teri­tis around the world and is still a com­mon cause of hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion for chil­dren un­der 2 years old in Aus­tralia.

How is rotavirus con­tracted?

Rotavirus is a hardy virus that can sur­vive on our skin for sev­eral hours and even longer on sur­faces, mak­ing it very easy to spread and con­tract. The virus can be passed on through the stools of in­fected peo­ple/chil­dren, which is why day care cen­tres, fam­ily homes and homes for the el­derly are the most com­mon places to con­tract the in­fec­tion. So, for ex­am­ple, if a carer changes an in­fected baby’s nappy and doesn’t wash their hands prop­erly af­ter do­ing so, they can spread the virus.

It is also an easy in­fec­tion to spread as it can be passed on via any in­fected sur­face that makes a path­way to the mouth (so in chil­dren un­der 2 years old this would most likely be hands, food and any ob­ject they place in their mouths); through in­fected fae­ces mak­ing its way into wa­ter; and via res­pi­ra­tory droplets (for ex­am­ple, through cough­ing and sneez­ing). Aside from be­ing highly in­fec­tious, a sin­gle per­son/child can be in­fected by the dis­ease sev­eral times, though the first time is gen­er­ally the most se­vere, as a nat­u­ral im­mu­nity is built up.

Rotavirus is a hardy form of gas­tro with symp­toms that can range from mild to se­vere. Ni­cole Thomas takes a look at what you can do to pro­tect your child.

risk of in­fec­tion, so if your child con­tracts rotavirus it doesn’t mean that hy­giene stan­dards are poor, and that chil­dren be­tween 6 months and 2 years of age are the most prone. Rou­tine hand-wash­ing and clean­li­ness are im­por­tant but they are not enough to stop the rotavirus in­fec­tion, hence the in­tro­duc­tion of the vac­cine in ba­bies.

The in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod for rotavirus is 1 to 3 days, with it be­com­ing con­ta­gious 2 days be­fore the child de­vel­ops di­ar­rhea and up to 8 days af­ter the di­ar­rhea stops. The ill­ness can oc­cur abruptly and lasts for an av­er­age of any­where be­tween 3 to 7 days.

warn­ing signs of rotavirus

Symp­toms of rotavirus can vary from mild to se­vere and th­ese in­clude:

• Wa­tery di­ar­rhea of a fi­nite time­frame for mild cases

• Di­ar­rhea which re­sults in de­hy­dra­tion, vom­it­ing,

fever and shock in se­vere cases

• Runny nose and cough

• Sore stom­ach

• Loss of ap­petite.

One of the main things to look out for if your child has rotavirus is de­hy­dra­tion, as this can lead to hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion and, if not treated in time, is po­ten­tially life threat­en­ing. In se­vere cases of rotavirus, the child will re­quire in­tra­venous flu­ids to pre­vent de­hy­dra­tion, but in more mild cases, the best route to help­ing your child re­cover is by keep­ing them well hy­drated un­til it has run its course. If you sus­pect your child may be suf­fer­ing from de­hy­dra­tion, it is im­por­tant to look out for the fol­low­ing signs – min­i­mal uri­na­tion/dry di­a­pers, the pro­duc­tion of few tears when cry­ing, un­char­ac­ter­is­tic

fussi­ness and/or lethargy.

How can rotavirus be treated?

The most im­por­tant things you can do if your child has rotavirus is to pro­vide plenty of flu­ids for your tot (con­tinue to breast­feed if you are a nurs­ing mum), al­low them to get plenty of rest and en­sure that if they dis­play any symp­toms of mod­er­ate to se­vere rotavirus, take them to your GP. You should also con­sult your doc­tor if your child re­fuses to drink/ breast­feed.

As with any­thing, pre­ven­tion is the best method of at­tack and im­mu­nis­ing your child is the rec­om­mended way to pro­tect them against rotavirus. Even if a vac­ci­nated child con­tracts rotavirus, they gen­er­ally get a mild form of the virus.

other ways to help pre­vent the in­fec­tion are:

• Wash­ing hands thor­oughly af­ter chang­ing a nappy, go­ing to the toi­let and be­fore han­dling food

• Dis­pos­ing of nap­pies and wipes thought­fully

• Dis­in­fect­ing the change ta­ble of­ten

• Reg­u­larly wash­ing and dis­in­fect­ing shared toys and items

• Keep­ing sick ba­bies and chil­dren at home from child­care for at least 24 hours af­ter the di­ar­rhea stops to pre­vent the spread

• Wash­ing hands be­fore touch­ing food

• Keep­ing sick ba­bies and chil­dren away from swim­ming pools for two weeks af­ter the symp­toms go

Rotavirus is a ro­bust virus, but im­mu­ni­sa­tion, good hy­giene and re­hy­dra­tion are key play­ers in keep­ing this nasty bug at bay.

[ it is also an easy in­fec­tion to spread as it can be passed on via any in­fected sur­face that

makes a path­way to the mouth ]

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