Rota Virus

Rota Virus

The rotavirus belongs to the family of the 'Reoviridae'. The virus was discovered in 1973, when fluid from the duodenum of children who suffered from a kind of 'winter flu' and had to vomit a lot, was examined under an electron microscope. Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in combination with dehydration. The rotavirus is life-threatening for babies. Because the symptoms resemble gastroenteritis and the general practitioners are not fully aware of the rotavirus, one in 74 infants end up in the hospital in their first year of life, even though there is a vaccine.

The rotavirus is responsible for 40 to 60 percent of diarrhea cases that lead to hospitalization in developed countries.

  • The organism is responsible for 20 to 40 percent of serious diarrhea cases in children in developing countries.
  • Diarrhea caused by the rotavirus mainly occurs in children between six months and two years. Children between six months and two years have an increased risk of dehydration and babies younger than a year can dry out completely within 24 hours.
  • An infected child spreads the rotavirus in his immediate environment to, for example, toys and drinking cups, where the virus can easily survive for days. Because young children put everything in their mouths it can easily be transferred to another child. Because infected children excrete rotavirus before showing any symptoms, contamination can occur unnoticed. Sometimes several children are infected at, for example, a day care center, so you must inform any facilities your child frequents. These outbreaks are seen more often in the months of November to March.
  • The incubation period (the time between the infection and the occurrence of the first symptoms) of rotavirus is about two days (on average one to three days).


Characteristics

  • vomiting and watery diarrhea for three to eight days;
  • fever;
  • stomach ache;
  • dehydration, because a lot of fluid is lost during vomiting and diarrhea (children can lose body fluid very quickly and that is especially dangerous for children under the age of two).

 

Dehydration is characterized by:

  • a dry mouth;
  • no wet diaper or other sign that the child has peed for several hours;
  • extreme lethargy and weakness;
  • crying without tears.

Once infected with the rotavirus, your child is not completely immune, but later infections have much less serious consequences than the first. Those infected with the rotavirus secrete billions of particles of the virus through the feces. This can be measured with the aid of an immunological examination. The diagnosis can also be made by examining samples of stool for rotavirus proteins.

Drinking plenty of fluids can save a person's life, but does not prevent the spread of the virus.

In case of (serious) dehydration, it is recommended to use a special salt or glucose solution, also known as ORS. Make sure that the water you use is first boiled or comes from an unopened, sealed bottle, otherwise there is a risk secondary infection. If the patient has diarrhea, he must drink a lot, and try to eat dry biscuits or crackers.

Children need special attention and care to prevent dehydration. The ORS treatment is especially important for children.

 

General prevention measures include good hygiene practices, such as:

  • washing your hands regularly;
  • chemical disinfection;breastfeeding to transfer protective proteins (antibodies) from the mother to the newborn baby.

The transmission of the virus can, among other things, be effectively counteracted if staff members of day-care centers or other childcare workers regularly wash their hands. Parents also need to be careful that the nurseries are carefully cleaned and that surfaces that could be contaminated with the virus are disinfected.

Other general precautions to prevent infection:

Do not drink tap water and unpasteurized milk, and do not eat ice cream or unpasteurized dairy products. Be safe: bottles of carbonated soft drinks (especially soft drinks with a taste), beer, wine, hot coffee or tea, boiled water or water that has been cleaned with iodine or chlorine. Do not eat anything at stalls or restaurants that looks suspicious.

There is an orally administered vaccine against the rotavirus available, but this depends on your area of jurisdiction. The UK, for example, provide this free of charge on the NHS vaccination program. In the US this varies state by state.

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