Rotavirus Basic Information
Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea among children. Prior the introduction of rotavirus vaccines in the United States in 2006, rotavirus resulted in the hospitalization of approximately 55,000 US children each year. Globally, rotavirus is estimated to cause 527,000 deaths in children annually.
The incubation period for rotavirus disease is approximately 2 days. The disease is characterized by vomiting and watery diarrhea for 3 – 8 days, and fever and abdominal pain occur frequently. Immunity after infection is incomplete, but repeat infections tend to be less severe than the original infection.
A vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of rotavirus vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.
Most babies who get rotavirus vaccine do not have any problems with it.
Babies may be slightly more likely to be irritable, or to have mild, temporary diarrhea or vomiting after getting a dose of rotavirus vaccine than babies who did not get the vaccine.
Rotavirus vaccine does not appear to cause any serious side effects.
If rare reactions occur with any new product, they may not be identified until thousands, or millions, of people have used it. Like all vaccines, rotavirus vaccine will continue to be monitored for unusual or severe problems.
Who Should Not Be Vaccinated
Some babies should not get rotavirus vaccine or should wait.
A baby who has had a severe (life-threatening) allergic reaction to a dose of rotavirus vaccine should not get another dose. A baby who has a severe (life threatening) allergy to any component of rotavirus vaccine should not get the vaccine. Tell your doctor if your baby has any severe allergies that you know of, including a severe allergy to latex.
Babies who are moderately or severely ill at the time the vaccination is scheduled should probably wait until they recover. This includes babies who have moderate or severe diarrhea or vomiting. Ask your doctor or nurse. Babies with mild illnesses should usually get the vaccine.
Check with your doctor if your baby’s immune system is weakened because of:
• HIV/AIDS, or any other disease that affects the immune system
• treatment with drugs such as long-term steroids
• cancer, or cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs
In the late 1990s a different type of rotavirus vaccine was used. This vaccine was found to be associated with an uncommon type of bowel obstruction called “intussusception,” and it was taken off the market.
The new rotavirus vaccines have not been associated with intussusception.
However, babies who have had intussusception, from any cause, are at higher risk for getting it again. If your baby has ever had intussusception, discuss this with your doctor.