Rotavirus infection

Last updated: September 8, 2021

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Rotaviruses are a common cause of viral gastroenteritis in infants and young children and are transmitted via the 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 through antigen detection in stool. Treatment is supportive and mainly involves replacing fluids, although infection may be prevented altogether by vaccination.

  • A major cause of severe diarrhea in infants and children in the US (especially during the winter) [1]
  • Leading cause of severe diarrhea among infants and children worldwide, although all age groups are susceptible to infection.
  • Most commonly occurs in daycare centers and kindergartens


Epidemiological data refers to the US, unless otherwise specified.

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




The differential diagnoses listed here are not exhaustive.



  1. Norovirus - Burden of Norovirus Illness and Outbreaks. Updated: July 8, 2014. Accessed: March 22, 2017.
  2. Healthwise Staff. Mild, Moderate, or Severe Diarrhea: Topic Overview. Mild, Moderate, or Severe Diarrhea: Topic Overview. New York, NY: WebMD. Updated: August 21, 2015. Accessed: March 27, 2017.
  3. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases - Rotavirus.
  4. Le T, Bhushan V,‎ Sochat M, Chavda Y, Abrams J, Kalani M, Kallianos K, Vaidyanathan V. First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2019. McGraw-Hill Medical
  5. Rotavirus - Transmission. Updated: August 12, 2016. Accessed: March 27, 2017.
  6. Haaheim LR, Pattison JR, Whitley RJ. A Practical Guide to Clinical Virology. John Wiley & Sons ; 2002
  7. Prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis among infants and children: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Updated: February 6, 2009. Accessed: March 27, 2017.
  8. Rotavirus - Treatment. Updated: August 12, 2016. Accessed: March 27, 2017.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Addition of history of intussusception as a contraindication for rotavirus vaccination. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2011; 60 (41): p.1427.
  10. Information Sheet Observed Rate of Vaccine Reactions Rotavirus Vaccine.
  11. Vaccine Information Statements (VISs): Rotavirus VIS. Updated: October 18, 2016. Accessed: March 27, 2017.

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