Vaccine Stomps out Stomach Illness in Kids

Gastroenteritis hospitalizations for children dropped after rotavirus vaccine

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) The widespread use of a vaccine against a germ that causes gastrointestinal illness in infants and young children may have proved its worth.

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that — since the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine — US children’s hospitalizations for gastroenteritis have dropped significantly.

"In young children, rotavirus infection can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, resulting in dehydration, hospitalization, and even death," wrote lead study author Eyal Leshem, MD, of the CDC in Atlanta, GA, and colleagues. "Prior to vaccine introduction, rotavirus was the most common cause of severe diarrhea in US children younger than 5 years of age, [however the] implementation of highly effective rotavirus vaccines in 2006 resulted in dramatic declines in diarrhea hospitalizations in the US."

The CDC estimates that rotavirus causes between 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations, and between 20 to 60 deaths in US children under the age 5 each year.

Acute gastroenteritis (also known as the stomach flu) is an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract involving both the stomach and small intestine. It can result in diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. The majority of cases in children globally are caused by rotavirus, according to the CDC. Less common causes may include bacteria and parasites. Rotavirus can be contracted through improperly-prepared foods, contaminated water or close contact with infected persons.

In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the rotavirus vaccine for use among US infants.

According to Dr. Leshem and team, hospitalizations for gastroenteritis among young children have been going down dramatically every year since 2006.

“Following implementation of rotavirus vaccination in 2006, acute gastroenteritis hospitalization rates among US children younger than 5 years declined by 31 percent to 55 percent in each of the post-vaccine years from 2008 through 2012,” Dr. Leshem and colleagues wrote.

Dr. Leshem and team looked at hospital records from 26 states from 2000 to 2012. These researchers found that — of the 1.2 million gastroenteritis hospitalizations of children during that time period — close to 200,000 (17 percent) were identified specifically as due to rotavirus.

Dr. Leshem and team also found that — compared to the yearly hospitalization rate for rotavirus before 2006 — gastroenteritis hospitalizations plummeted 70 percent in 2008, 63 percent in 2009, 90 percent in 2010, 79 percent in 2011 and 94 percent in 2012.

The decline in hospitalizations appears to be linked to the increasing number of children who have received the vaccine, according to these researchers.

Rotavirus can spread easily among children through a fecal-oral route.

"The best way to protect your children remains keeping them up-to-date with recommended vaccinations," Dr. Leshem and colleagues wrote.

This study was published June 9 in the journal JAMA.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 8, 2015
Last Updated:
June 11, 2015