Rotavirus is a common viral infection that often affects children under 5 years old. It’s highly contagious, sometimes causing severe diarrhea and dehydration. Rotavirus infection is more common during cooler months, and those months are known as “rotavirus season.”

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You may have heard about “rotavirus season.” But what does this mean? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there’s a seasonal pattern to rotavirus infections. In the United States, they occur more often in winter and spring, from January through June. This is sometimes called rotavirus season.

Rotavirus is an extremely common viral infection that causes gastrointestinal symptoms and most often occurs in children. It’s highly contagious.

Learn more about rotavirus.

Rotavirus is most common in the colder winter months and in milder, cooler spring months. This varies throughout the world. In the U.S., the most frequent rotavirus infections are in January through June. Meanwhile, in the Southern Hemisphere, rotavirus often affects people in the winter.

Following widespread childhood vaccination against rotavirus that started with the introduction of rotavirus vaccines in 2006, the rotavirus season has changed. Peaks in rotavirus infections usually occur every other year or in a biennial pattern. Odd-numbered years tend to have higher rates of rotavirus infections.

Rotavirus season happens likely because of how the virus spreads. Rotavirus can spread from person to person mainly through fecal-oral contact, which is more likely to happen in close quarters during the winter months.

Rotavirus primarily causes the following symptoms:

Rotavirus may also cause weakness and fever.

All the above symptoms can lead to intense dehydration, which can be life threatening.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

Rotavirus is a highly contagious infection and can easily spread from person to person. Most commonly, rotavirus spreads through a fecal-oral route.

The spread most likely occurs when a child or person with rotavirus doesn’t wash their hands thoroughly enough after using the bathroom and passes the virus on to surfaces or other people. It can be easy to pick up the virus by touching one of these surfaces.

As with most viruses, the best way to handle rotavirus is to prevent infection. Proper hand hygiene is critical to the prevention of rotavirus infections. It’s important to make sure that you and your child wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and before eating.

But the rotavirus mostly affects children under 5 years old. For this group, hygiene help isn’t always the most effective solution. That’s why there’s a rotavirus vaccine. This is an important tool to help prevent the infection spread.

A 2019 study found that widespread immunization against rotavirus significantly reduced hospitalizations for rotavirus by 87%.

Rotavirus is known most for causing diarrhea. But it can also cause high fever and vomiting. With all these symptoms, the major complication of rotavirus infection is dehydration.

Losing so much fluid from vomiting and diarrhea while having difficulty consuming nutrient-dense food and hydrating fluids can be extremely dangerous and can lead to the need for hospitalization. It’s important to talk with your doctor or healthcare professional if you think your child has rotavirus.

Get medical care for yourself or your child at any indication of dehydration. Symptoms can include:

Recognizing the early symptoms of dehydration can be key. It’s also important to recognize when someone might be on the path to severe dehydration. For example, if you can’t keep food or fluids down due to vomiting and significant diarrhea, it’s a good idea to get medical advice.

The treatment for rotavirus is oral rehydration therapy, which involves drinking beverages made of water, sugar, and electrolytes, specifically potassium and sodium.

Early reintroduction of foods and liquids is critical to help prevent complications and help speed up the recovery process.

Experts are investigating different treatments, including the use of probiotics, but they’re still studying these treatments, and currently, there aren’t enough data to say they work.

Rotavirus vaccination has been routine in the U.S. for many years and is becoming routine worldwide. This means healthcare professionals give the rotavirus vaccine as part of the typical vaccination schedule for children.

You can get vaccines for your child where you get healthcare, such as a pediatrician’s office, primary care or family doctor, or your local health department.

What type of vaccine is the rotavirus vaccine?

The rotavirus vaccine is an oral, live attenuated vaccine which means that the oral vaccine contains a sample of the virus that’s alive and can enter your body cells. Experts specifically design the vaccine virus so that it can’t cause illness.

Can you get rotavirus more than once?

You or your child can get rotavirus more than once, even after vaccination, because there are many different rotaviruses. However, according to CDC, vaccinated children are less likely to get sick than unvaccinated children.

Rotavirus is an extremely common virus that occurs widely among children under 5 years old. It leads to severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, and dehydration. Speak with your doctor if you believe you or your child may have rotavirus.