Rotavirus Infections

Rotavirus infections are very common and they mainly affect children collectives. However, they are easily transmitted and frequently affect also adults. The most typical form is gastrointestinal with acute diarrhea.


The rotaviruses are common microorganisms and the infection occurs when the viruses enter our body, typically from contaminated objects or food. Therefore, rotaviruses spread well in communities with lower hygiene, typically among young children. The rotaviruses invade intestinal mucosa and cause local inflammation with a failure of absorption of sugar molecules.


A classic manifestation of the disease is development of acute diarrhea. The stool is watery and clear, usually without blood and mucus. The diarrhea is accompanied by elevated body temperature, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. The disease is self-limiting and disappears within days. Healthy individuals are not threatened, but little children and elderly patients may get dehydrated. The virus is excreted with stool, which is infectious for several days allowing the infection to spread.


The diagnosis is probable in an epidemic of diarrhea with the above-mentioned symptoms. When needed, it is possible to confirm the diagnosis by microbiological examination of a stool sample.


The risk of the disease may be lowered (but not excluded) by keeping adequate hygienic standards.


The therapy is usually only symptomatic. Bed rest, diet and adequate fluid intake are recommended. Fever may be treated by anti-inflammatory medications. However, the children must not be treated with preparations containing aspirin due to the risk of Reye's syndrome.


The rotavirus infection temporary damages the enzyme known as lactase in the intestinal mucosa and its dysfunction lasts for about two weeks after the infection is terminated. This causes secondary lactose intolerance and the patient should temporary avoid diary products.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources