Causes and symptoms of rotavirus

Causes and symptoms of rotavirus

Hygiene is key with any rotavirus infection. The virus is easily spread through hand-to-mouth contact once an infection is present. Rotavirus is present in an infected person’s stool a few days before they begin to experience common symptoms, and remains for up to ten days after symptoms clear up.

How is rotavirus transmitted? 

The virus can spread through anything an infected person touches. Hand-washing, particularly after using the toilet, helping another to use the toilet, or changing a baby’s nappy (diaper) is very important. If hand-washing is insufficient and any contaminated object is touched, and a person then touches their own mouth, the infection is spread. The virus can remain infectious on contaminated surfaces for weeks if not disinfected properly.

It is possible to be infected with rotavirus more than once in your lifetime because there are several types of viruses, even if you have been vaccinated before. Typically, any repeat infections will be less severe.

Symptoms of rotavirus

Common signs and symptoms of an infection are:

  • Severe watery diarrhoea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain and discomfort
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of bodily fluids (dehydration)

Vomiting is often the first symptom, followed by diarrhoea and a fever. The combination of vomiting and diarrhoea is what brings on dehydration in the body.

Signs of dehydration include a decrease in urination, a dry mouth and throat, as well as dizziness (particularly when standing up). A dehydrated child or baby may also cry with few or no tears, and become unusually fussy or even sleepy. Babies and very young children with rotavirus infections do need to be monitored closely. Dehydration can occur quickly and if the body loses more water than is replaced, severe health problems can arise.

Although children can be vaccinated against the virus, they may still become unwell (and more than once too) due to the possibility of different viral strains developing in the future. Thus, current vaccinations may not provide full protection from future infections, but the likelihood of contracting the virus is reduced and any symptoms experienced are milder. Adults infected with rotavirus tend to experience less severe symptoms as well.

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