What is it

Rotavirus is a contagious virus that can cause gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines).1 Rotavirus gastroenteritis is most common in infants and young children.1 However, older children and adults also may get sick from rotavirus.2

Who is at risk

Children with weakened immune system are at higher risk of severe and prolonged gastroenteritis.3 In adults, risk of developing rotavirus associated gastroenteritis is higher in travelers returning from developing countries, in people caring for children with rotavirus gastroenteritis, immunocompromised persons, and older adults.3

What are the symptoms

Symptoms appear within 2 days post infection with rotavirus.2

Symptoms in children include:2

  • Severe watery diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration

Symptoms of dehydration include:2

  • Decrease in urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling dizzy when standing up
  • In children: cry with few or no tears, unusually sleepy or fussy

Adults with the rotavirus disease typically have milder symptoms.2

How is it spread

Majority of rotavirus infections are transmitted through the fecal-oral route.4 Some evidence exists that it may also be transmitted through the respiratory route, or through indirect contact with fomites or contaminated surfaces.4 Household transmission of rotavirus gastroenteritis is common, with at least one other family member experiencing gastroenteritis in 47% of rotavirus cases.3

How is it prevented

Rotavirus vaccines are recommended for infants. The vaccine is given in the infants first year of life in 3 doses. The vaccination series should be completed before 8 months of age. It is given orally and not by injection.6

How is it treated

There is no specific treatment for rotavirus, only supportive care to relieve symptoms.5 The best way to protect against dehydration is to drink plenty of liquids.5 Oral rehydration solutions can be obtained over the counter in most food and drug stores which are helpful for mild dehydration. Severe dehydration may require hospitalization and appropriate treatment. Medical advice is recommended for the onset of symptoms. 

For further information regarding rotavirus and immunization, please speak with your healthcare provider.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rotavirus.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rotavirus Symptoms.
  3. Government of Canada. Canadian Immunization Guide: Part 4 - Active Vaccines. Page 19.
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rotavirus Transmission.
  5. Ministry of Health Israel. Vaccination of Infants. Vaccines Babies.