Rotavirus

What is rotavirus?

Rotavirus is a common virus that causes a mild to severe diarrhea in humans. Infants and young children in childcare centres and children’s hospitals are most often infected. The virus is also a common cause of diarrhea in the elderly living in long-term care facilities and homes for older adults. Sometimes, the virus can cause traveller’s diarrhea in healthy adults.

How does a person get rotavirus?

This virus is spread in feces. An infected person can transfer the virus to people, surfaces, or objects by touching them if they did not wash their hands very well after they used the washroom. If another person touches the same surface or the infected person’s hand and then touches their mouth, the virus could enter their body and they would be infected. Rotavirus can also be found in a person’s throat and lungs and could spread through a cough or a sneeze. The virus can be spread to others before and after symptoms appear.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include vomiting, watery diarrhea, and fever, which usually last four to six days. Symptoms appear about two days after being infected. Severe diarrhea in children can lead to dehydration. Dehydration signs include thirst, restlessness, dry mouth and tongue, dry skin, irritability, urinating less frequently, fatigue or laziness, or a dry diaper for several hours. The chance of getting rotavirus is greatest between six and 24 months of age. Usually by three years of age most people have immunity to this virus.

How can you prevent rotavirus infection?

  • Thorough hand washing is the best prevention. Wash your hands thoroughly after using the washroom, changing diapers, and before preparing or eating food.
  • Wash your hands when entering and leaving a healthcare facility or daycare setting.
  • Use a chlorine (bleach) based disinfectant on washroom surfaces and diaper change areas after each use. The solution should be one part bleach to nine parts water. Many common (non-chlorine) disinfectants do not kill rotavirus.
  • People ill with rotavirus-like symptoms should not handle food or care for others until they do not have symptoms for 24 hours.
  • A rotavirus vaccine is available for infants at ages two and four months from Public Health Nursing.

For more information please contact 1-800-958-6400 or the local Public Health Nursing Office. 

Published date: 
October 15, 2015
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