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What is Rotavirus Diarrhea?

Article Details
  • Written By: Dulce Corazon
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 08 June 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Diarrhea is a condition where there is an increase in the number of loose bowel movements in a given day. A rotavirus is a wheel-shaped organism that commonly infects children. Rotavirus diarrhea therefore, is a condition characterized by an increased frequency of passing out loose or watery stools due to the rotavirus infection.

Infected children, usually 5 years old and younger, are often prone to suffer from rotavirus diarrhea. The diarrhea is frequently severe and if not treated can lead to dehydration, or excessive loss of fluids from the body, and even death. Hospitalization is often required to replace the fluids lost during each bowel movement. Aside from severe diarrhea, other symptoms of a rotavirus infection include vomiting, abdominal pain, nausea, and fever. The condition may last from three to eight days.

Essential substances, such as electrolytes, are often lost due to the rotavirus diarrhea and vomiting. These electrolytes play an important role in regulating bodily functions, including the heart's ability to effectively pump blood. Pediatricians, doctors who treat children, often direct medical interventions to treat dehydration, replace the electrolytes lost, and relieve other symptoms of infection.

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The rotavirus is often transmitted through the fecal-oral route. This usually happens when the virus in the stools of infected individuals contaminates the food, drinking water, and toys of other children. Some children who do not practice proper hand washing can get the virus to their mouthes after touching a contaminated toy or surface. After it enters the body, a two-day incubation period usually takes place before symptoms manifest.

Rotavirus diarrhea is not only limited to children. Elderly individuals, especially those with compromised immune systems can also easily acquire the rotavirus infection. People with compromised immune systems include those suffering from acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and anemia, or low red blood cell count.

A stool specimen is usually obtained from suspected patients and screened for the presence of the virus. There are more advanced tests that also can determine the strain of the infecting rotavirus. These tests, however, are not commonly performed.

There are several ways to prevent a rotavirus infection. These include frequent hand washing, proper hygiene, and sanitation. Rotavirus vaccines are also very effective in preventing rotavirus diarrhea in children. Pediatricians usually administer the vaccine in three doses, when the child is at two, four and six months old.

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