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Rotavirus causes acute gastroenteritis, which can lead to severe diarrhea and vomiting, among infants and children worldwide. There are two rotavirus vaccines currently licensed for vaccinating infants in the United States:
This first dose of either vaccine is most effective if it is given before a child is 15 weeks old. Children should receive all doses of rotavirus vaccine before they turn 8 months old.
Both vaccines are oral (taken by mouth and swallowed). Rotavirus vaccine may be given at the same time as other childhood vaccines.
Millions of infants in the United States have gotten rotavirus vaccine safely. However, some studies have shown a small increase in cases of intussusception from rotavirus vaccination. Intussusception is a bowel blockage that is treated in a hospital and may require surgery. It is estimated that risk of intussusception is 1 in every 20,000 infants to 1 in every 100,000 infants after vaccination. Intussusception is most likely to happen within the first week after the first or second dose of rotavirus vaccine.
CDC continues to recommend that infants receive rotavirus vaccine. The benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the small risk of intussusception. Thanks to the rotavirus vaccine, there has been a dramatic decrease in hospitalizations and emergency room visits for rotavirus illness.
Last reviewed: April 2015
Rotavirus causes acute gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines). Rotavirus disease causes severe watery diarrhea, often with vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. In infants and young children, it can lead to dehydration (loss of body fluids).
Vaccinated and unvaccinated children may develop rotavirus disease more than once. That is because neither vaccine nor natural infection provides full immunity (protection) from future infections. Usually a person’s first infection with rotavirus causes the most severe symptoms.
Rotavirus disease is most common in infants and young children. Though less common, adults and older children can also become infected with rotavirus. They will usually have milder symptoms than infants and young children.
Rotavirus is major cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children worldwide. Globally, it causes almost half a million deaths each year in children younger than five years of age.
Before rotavirus vaccine, rotavirus disease was a common and serious health problem for children in the United States. Almost all U.S. children had at least one rotavirus infection before their 5th birthday. Each year in the United States, rotavirus was responsible for more than 400,000 doctor visits; more than 200,000 emergency room visits; 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations; and 20 to 60 deaths in children younger than five years of age.
Microscopic view of rotavirus.