DOCTOR'S VIEW ARCHIVE
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: Dennis Lee, MD
A survey of 600 U.S. mothers with children under the age three revealed that over 70% of mothers have read or heard little or nothing about rotavirus infection, the most common cause of diarrhea in young children throughout the world. Almost all children have had multiple rotavirus infections by the time they enter kindergarten. While the illness is normally self-limited and does not require special treatment, complications and even death can result from severe dehydration that can occur with rotavirus illness when supportive treatment (rehydration) is not given. Rotavirus infection is responsible for an estimated 500,000 visits to doctor's offices and 160,000 emergency-room visits among children each year in the U.S.
Rotavirus symptoms include:
Abdominal pain may also occur, and infected children may have profuse watery diarrhea up to several times per day. Symptoms can last from three to nine days. Immunity from repeated infection is incomplete after a rotavirus infection, but repeated infections tend to be less severe than the original infection.
Rotavirus infection is highly contagious. The primary mode of transmission of rotavirus is the passage of the virus in stool to the mouth of another child, known as a fecal-oral route of transmission. The virus can live for hours on hands and even longer on hard surfaces. Since the virus is so prevalent, it is very difficult or even impossible to prevent your child from acquiring a rotavirus infection.
The telephone survey of mothers was conducted by the National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition in August 2005. Almost half of the respondents (46%) admitted that they were not at all familiar with rotavirus illness, and 29% did not know if the infection is serious. The majority of mothers, however, rated the symptoms caused by rotavirus (diarrhea, forceful vomiting) as serious or very serious symptoms.
Even though 21% of moms said they were familiar with rotavirus disease, 60% of this group did not know that rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhea in young children, and 49% of those familiar with the condition were unaware that almost all children will become infected with rotavirus by the time they enter kindergarten.
Since there is no way to determine if their children will develop a mild or severe case of rotavirus disease, all parents should be aware of the condition and of its potential major complication—severe dehydration. Being informed about the condition can help you recognize the symptoms of rotavirus infection and seek appropriate care. For more information on rotavirus infection and illness, please read the article on Rotavirus Infection.
Reference: The National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition, "Are you rotavirus-ready?" 2005