Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhoea in infants and young children worldwide.

If you look at a rotavirus through a microscope, the Rotavirus has a round shape.  The Latin word for wheel is “rota,” and this is how the virus got its name.

Rotavirus infection

Rotavirus is a virus that causes diarrhoea and other intestinal symptoms.  It’s very contagious and causes inflammation in the stomach and intestines.  Symptoms include severe diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, stomach pain, and dehydration in infants, young children, and some adults.

Medications can help with the symptoms, but there’s no cure for rotavirus.  Even children vaccinated against rotavirus may get it more than once.

When to consult a doctor

With frequent vomiting and diarrhoea, a child may not feel like eating or drinking.  This can result in dehydration.  Dehydration can become life-threatening.  Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Listlessness, irritability or anxiousness
  • Fatigue
  • Crying with no tears
  • Little urination or dry diapers
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Severe sleepiness
  • Pale skin
  • Sunken eyes

Other symptoms that raise concern are:

  • Stools that are black or contain blood
  • Any high temperature in a baby younger than 6 months
  • A high temperature for more than 24 hours in a child older than 6 months

Rotavirus diagnosis

Doctors usually base a diagnosis on a physical exam and questions about symptoms.  In some cases, a doctor may request a stool sample analysis.