A Shot at Stopping Rotavirus

Rotavirus vaccinations kept many children free from infection

(RxWiki News) It's relatively new, but the rotavirus vaccine may be an effective way to stop the spread of rotavirus in kids.

A new study found that children who didn't receive the rotavirus vaccine were much more likely than those who did to be infected with the virus. Rotavirus is a virus that infects the bowels and is one of the most common causes of diarrhea in infants and young children.

"This study demonstrates that clinics with high immunization rates have better patient outcomes," said Robert Kotas, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at Baylor Pediatric and Adolescent Associates in Murphy, TX, in an interview with dailyRx News.

Symptoms of rotavirus can include diarrhea, fever, vomiting and severe dehydration. The virus spreads easily through the stool from a sick child, so day care centers and playgrounds can be breeding grounds for it. Children often have multiple bouts of rotavirus, but immunity is strengthened with each infection. Adults rarely get rotavirus.

Rotavirus vaccines were first introduced in the US in 2006. So far, they have been effective at slowing the spread of infection.

"All vaccines are expected to take time to reach desired levels," Dr. Kotas said. "Rotavirus immunization rates have been improving with time."

This vaccine has reduced the number of doctor visits related to the virus by 86 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices says the first dose should be given when the patient is 2 months old, the second dose at 4 months and the last one at 6 months. For the vaccine to work, it's important that babies are immunized on this strict timeline, Dr. Kotas said.

"Rotavirus vaccines must be finished prior to 8 months of age to be effective," Dr. Kotas said. "If an infant is late for vaccination, the series may not be finished on time."

Babies who are born prematurely or with health problems often don't receive the rotavirus vaccine. When these babies go home, they may be too old to receive it. The authors of this study — led by Julie A. Boom, MD, of the Texas Children's Hospital in Houston — said they hoped their findings would inspire more research on the effects of vaccinating premature or sick babies before they leave the hospital.

Parents should speak with their child's pediatrician about the rotavirus vaccine. Children with serious rotavirus infections should see a doctor.

Once a child is infected with rotavirus, the virus can incubate for up to two days, after which symptoms begin appearing. Treatment for children who are ill with rotavirus is simple: keep them comfortable, change their diapers often to keep them dry and clean and keep them hydrated. Diarrhea is dehydrating and can cause problems if left untreated. Doctors often suggest Pedialyte or other rehydration drinks to replace fluids lost during this illness.

This study was published Jan. 12 in the journal Pediatrics.

A CDC grant and a contract between the Texas Department of State Health Services and Texas Children’s Hospital funded this research. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 14, 2015