• Clinical science

Rotavirus infection (Rotavirus gastroenteritis)

Abstract

Rotaviruses are a frequent cause of viral gastroenteritis in infants and young children that are transmitted via a fecal-oral route. After a short incubation period of one to three days, patients present with vomiting, watery diarrhea, high-grade fever, and malaise. Diagnosis is established via antigen detection in stool. Treatment is supportive and mainly involves replacing fluids, although infection may be prevented altogether following vaccination.

Epidemiology

  • Infants and young children are most often affected, although all age groups are susceptible to infection.
  • A leading cause of severe (> 10 loose, watery stools within 24 hours) diarrhea in infants and children
  • Rotavirus infections are a major cause of death among children in developing countries
  • Before the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine in the US, rotavirus annually caused
    • > 400,000 physician visits
    • > 200,000 emergency department visits
    • 55,000–70,000 hospitalizations
    • 20–60 deaths

References:[1][2]

Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.

Etiology

  • Pathogen: Rotavirus is a non-enveloped, double-stranded RNA reovirus.
  • Transmission: fecal-oral route (e.g., by hands, objects, food, water contaminated with the virus)

References:[3][4]

Clinical features

  • Incubation period: 1–3 days
  • Vomiting and watery diarrhea lasting 3–7 days
  • Fever
  • Malaise

References:[2]

Diagnostics

  • Antigen detection in stool via enzyme immunoassay (EIA): a highly sensitive test that can be performed quickly and easily
  • Direct virus detection via electron microscopy is done only for research purposes.

References:[5]

Differential diagnoses

The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.

Treatment

References:[6]

Prevention

References:[7][8][9]