Rotavirus is a highly infectious virus that causes diarrhea mostly in infants and children. It is a major cause of diarrhea in children. Rotavirus diarrheal disease is ubiquitous. It is a major health problem in developing countries and one of the most common causes of hospitalization for gastroenteritis among children. Before the advent of vaccine, rotavirus was also common infection in developed countries. In Latin rota means wheel. Rotavirus has wheel like appearance hence the virus is named rotavirus.
The spread of rotavirus is through feco-oral route. The virus is present in feces of an infected patient.Fecal contamination is the main source of its spread. Diarrhea, vomiting, and fever are three main symptoms of rotavirus infection. One of the major concerns of rotavirus is dehydration caused by repeated diarrhea and vomiting. Hence some babies may require hospitalization for intravenous fluids in severe cases of dehydration. Milder cases can be treated at home with BRAT (banana, rice, apple sauce and toat) diet and sufficient fluid intake.
How Do Babies Get Rotavirus?
Rotavirus belongs to Reoviridae family of viruses. Among the A to h rotavirus serogroups, rotavirus A is the most virulent to cause gastroenteritis in children.The virus has characteristic wheel like appearance. Studies have shown that by the age of 2 years almost all children are affected by rotavirus in developing countries and in industrialized countries children of slightly older age.
Rotavirus is highly contagious virus. Its transmission occurs through feco-oral route. The virus is present in an infected persons stool. The virus is passed in the stool of infected person several days before symptoms develop. It stays for at least 10 days after the symptoms have alleviated. Unhygienic practices such as improper washing of hands after defecation is one of the most common causes of spread of the virus.
The virus can stay alive for a long period of time on substances and objects that come into contact with infected feces. When a normal child comes in contact with the contaminated substance, it can enter through hand to mouth contact. Most often child care centers are the source of infection. In United States the rotavirus infection is common during the winter and spring season.
Signs And Symptoms Of Rotavirus In Babies
The symptoms of rotavirus infection usually begin two to three days after the baby is exposed to virus. Even during this period the virus is passed into the stool and hence the baby’s stool is infective. Any object or substance gets contaminated with the feces. After appearance of the symptoms, they persist for 4 to 7 days.
The common symptoms of rotavirus infection are:
- Sudden onset of profuse watery diarrhea.
- Mild abdominal cramps.
The infection can be asymptomatic or may produce acute dehydrating diarrhea that may sometimes have fatal outcome. Rotavirus can also affect adults, but most of the time the infection is mild without any notable symptoms. In infants the only cause of worry due to watery diarrhea is dehydration.
Parents must be aware of symptoms of dehydration so that quick decision can be taken to reduce dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration in babies are; lethargy, cold and clammy skin, loss of skin elasticity, absences of tears when the child cries, sunken fontanel and eyes, too much thirst.
How To Treat Rotavirus In Babies?
Rotavirus infection is diagnosed with the help of symptoms, physical examination and stool samples. Specialized test such as polymerized chain reaction test of stool is useful. But such test is generally not necessary.
Rotavirus infection does not have any specific treatment. In number of cases no treatment is required and the condition resolves on its own. Antibiotics and antiviral medicines are not beneficial. The infection normally resolves with 4 to 7 days. However, the biggest concern in babies is dehydration caused by profuse diarrhea. If the condition is mild, baby can be treated at home.
Simple home remedies such as BRAT diet, increased fluid intake, are important steps to replenish lost fluids and vital nutrients. Sucking ice or sipping water frequently will help to replenish the lost fluid from the body. Rice water plays important role in reducing diarrhea. Give the baby one cup of rice water two to three times in a day. Probiotics are also valuable. Homeopathic medicines such as Ars Alb, podophyllum and china or veratrum Album are found effective.
If diarrhea is severe and the child is dehydrated, he may need to be hospitalized for intravenous fluid infusion and to maintain electrolyte balance.