Rotavirus, which has a characteristic wheel-like appearance under electron microscopy, is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea among children worldwide. The disease is more commonly seen in cooler months.
The disease is characterised by fever, vomiting and watery diarrhoea for 3 – 7 days. Abdominal pain is also frequently reported. Rotavirus gastroenteritis is a self-limiting illness in healthy persons. However, it is occasionally associated with severe dehydration in young children. Immunity after infection is incomplete, but re-infections tend to be less severe than the original infection.
Mode of transmission
The primary mode of transmission is predominantly faecal-oral. Transmission can also occur through ingestion of contaminated water or food, or contact with contaminated surface. Outbreaks can occur among children in day care settings.
Approximately 24 – 72 hours
There is no antiviral drug to treat rotavirus infection. Drink plenty of liquids to protect against dehydration. Patient suspected to have dehydration should seek medical advice for proper management.
Prevention of rotavirus infection is similar to other viral gastroenteritis.
Maintain good personal hygiene
- Wash hands thoroughly with liquid soap and water before handling food or eating, and after using the toilet or handling vomitus or faecal matter.
- Refrain from work or school, and seek medical advice if suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea.
- Exclude infected persons and asymptomatic carriers from handling food and from providing care to children, elderly and immunocompromised people.
Maintain good food hygiene
- Adopt the 5 Keys to Food Safety in handling food, i.e. Choose (Choose safe raw materials); Clean (Keep hands and utensils clean); Separate (Separate raw and cooked food); Cook (Cook thoroughly); and Safe Temperature (Keep food at safe temperature) to prevent foodborne diseases.
- Drink only boiled water from the mains or bottled drinks from reliable sources.
- Avoid drinks with ice of unknown origin.
- Purchase fresh food from hygienic and reliable sources. Do not patronise illegal hawkers.
- Wash and peel fruit by yourself and avoid eating raw vegetables.
- Cook all food thoroughly before consumption.
* Please visit the website of Centre for Food Safety for more information on food safety.
Maintain good environmental hygiene
- Maintain good indoor ventilation.
- Cleanse vomitus / faeces and disinfect the contaminated areas properly and immediately. Keep other people away from the contaminated areas during cleansing.
- Wear gloves and a surgical mask while disposing of or handling vomitus and faeces, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards.
- Maintain proper sanitary facilities and drainage system.
- Cleanse and disinfect toilets used by infected person and the soiled areas.
- There are oral vaccines for infants which can prevent rotavirus infection effectively. Parents can approach their family doctors for further advice and information.