Men's Articles

What Is Rotavirus?


It is a very common virus and is one of the first to infect very young children. It can be seen only using an electron microscope that can magnify the virus particles 70,000 or more times. It looks like a very small "golf ball" although it has 60 small hooks protruding from the surface. In two-dimensional photographs it has radiating spokes that make it look like a wheel, and it was called rotavirus because rota is Latin for wheel.

Diarrhea Doesn't Seem Like A Problem But It Kills A Child A Minute?

Almost all the deaths from rotavirus diarrhea occur in the poorest children in developing countries in Asia and Africa. There are also quite high mortality rates in many of the Latin American countries. Even though the diarrhea can be treated, rotavirus infection can lead to rapid dehydration and remains a potential life-threatening disease.

What Parents Should Look Out For As Early Signs Or Symptoms?

Vomiting and diarrhea, often associated with a fever. Who is most at risk? The majority of infections occur in the first two years of life because the child lacks immunity and the virus can grow more abundantly and cause great gut damage. Older children and adults are often infected throughout life but may not realise this - the disease can be very mild because of pre-existing immunity. Also, a very young child can lose so much fluid that he may die from dehydration, whereas an older child and an adult are not at such risk from dehydration.

How Quickly Is The Virus Transmitted?

As quickly as the common cold. Probably 24-48 hours after entry.

How Is It Transmitted And Are There Steps That Can Prevent It?

It can be transmitted by contact with infected surfaces or faecal material, person-to-person and hand to mouth. It is also possible by inhalation of virus particles after a toilet flush or a nappy change. Attention to hygiene and hand washing may reduce the spread but the virus is very resistant to disinfectants. Many major attempts to scrub surfaces never seem to have much effect on transmission. It helps to realise that every child will be infected by rotavirus by the age of five but many will have only a mild infection.

Any Long-term Effects Even If A Child Doesn't Die From It?

Some children may take a long time to recover from the damage to the small intestine and during that time they may have trouble digesting their food.

 

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