Recent data on rotavirus shows that the number of cases as well as the severity of cases are decreasing and this may be due to a new rotavirus vaccine for infants. Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) in infants and young children, annually causing about 410,000 physician office visits, 205,000-272,000 emergency department visits, 55,000-70,000 hospitalizations, and 20-60 deaths among U.S. children less than 5 years of age.
In 2006, a new rotavirus vaccine, RotaTeq (Merck & Co. Inc.), was recommended for routine immunization of U.S. infants. Clinical trial results indicated that this live, oral vaccine prevented 74 percent of all rotavirus cases, about 98 percent of severe cases, and about 96 percent of hospitalizations due to rotavirus. A second rotavirus vaccine, Rotarix, by GlaxoSmithKline, also is available.
Rotavirus vaccine is recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP). The orally administered vaccine can be easily incorporated into routine childhood vaccination schedules. The first dose should be administered between 6-12 weeks of age.
Rotavirus is highly contagious. Large amounts of the virus are shed in the stool of infected persons and can be spread by contaminated hands and objects. Children can spread rotavirus both before and after they become sick with diarrhea, and they can pass the virus to family members and children and caregivers in the early care and education setting. Rotavirus is a common cause of diarrhea in childcare settings.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has available a variety of materials on rotavirus and the rotavirus vaccine that can used in the childcare setting and provided to parents. Handouts, posters, and question and answer information sheets are available.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 800-CDC-INFO; www.cdc.gov/rotavirus