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4 August 2015
Rotavirus Infection  

Causative agent

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.

Clinical features

The disease is characterised by vomiting and watery diarrhoea for 3 – 7 days. Fever and abdominal pain are 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.

Incubation period

Approximately 24 – 72 hours

Management

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

Prevention of rotavirus infection is similar to other viral gastroenteritis. High standard of personal, food and environmental hygiene should be observed:

  • Wash hands with liquid soap and water before handling food and eating, after going to toilets, and after changing diapers.
  • Refrain from work or school, and seek medical advice if one is suffering from symptoms of gastroenteritis such as vomiting or diarrhoea.
  • 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 mask while disposing of or handling vomitus and faeces, and wash hands thoroughly afterwards. (Alcohol based hand rub is not effective in eliminating some of viruses that cause gastroenteritis.)
  • Clean and disinfect soiled linens, clothes and environmental surfaces promptly and thoroughly with 1 in 49 diluted household bleach (mixing 1 part of household bleach containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite in 49 parts of water). Wash hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Wear overalls over diapers to prevent leakage.
  • There are oral vaccines for infants which can prevent rotavirus infection effectively. Parents can approach their family doctors for further advice and information.
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