Rotavirus is a virus that causes gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines). The virus spreads by the fecal-oral route; this means that the virus must be shed by an infected person and then enter a susceptible person’s mouth to cause infection. Rotavirus can be spread by contaminated hands, objects, food or water. Symptoms can include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and may last from 3 to 8 days. Additional symptoms include loss of appetite and dehydration (loss of body fluids), which can be especially harmful for infants and young children.
Rotavirus infection can be prevented through vaccination with one of two rotavirus vaccines licensed in the United States. CDC recommends routine vaccination of infants with either of the two available vaccines: RotaTeq® (RV5), which is given in 3 doses at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months; or Rotarix® (RV1), which is given in 2 doses at ages 2 months and 4 months. Both rotavirus vaccines are given orally and should be started before the infant is 15 weeks of age. Infants older than 8 months of age should not be vaccinated. The vaccines are both safe and effective (85% to 98%) in preventing severe rotavirus disease in infants and young children. Since the vaccine has become available, the number of rotavirus cases has decreased by half in the United States.