Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhoeal disease and dehydration in infants and young children throughout the world. Globally, it is estimated to cause more than half a million deaths each year in children under 5. It is a virus that causes gastroenteritis which is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), most cases are seen in children between the ages of 3 months and 2 years.
Most children would be infected with rotavirus by the time they reach their fifth birthday, with about 20-56% of all children admitted with diarrhoea being rotavirus positive. It is very easy for rotavirus to spread from child to child, and sometimes to adults. As such no child is safe from rotavirus.
Just last year (2012) in Perak, a total of 2,236 people contracted rotavirus. Two babies died as a result of this outbreak. That is 2 lives too many to lose to a disease that is easily preventable. There are 2 vaccines that can help to protect our children against rotavirus. No child should be subject to such needless pain and suffering.
But there is a very short window of opportunity to protect your child. At the moment, rotavirus vaccination is only recommended up to 8 months of age. Take full advantage of this available protection by speaking to a healthcare practitioner at private hospitals and clinics.
The Rotavirus Menace
Rotavirus is a highly infectious disease that will stop at nothing to affect your child. More likely than not, you probably got infected with rotavirus when you were a child. You might remember the vomiting, terrible stomach aches and spending multiple times a day in the toilet with watery stool. You might even remember asking your parents why your stool was so watery.
You would be considered lucky because all you felt was stomach discomfort. But rotavirus can prove far more severe. Rotavirus can cause abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhoea and most notably severe dehydration. Sunken eyes and weight loss may also be witnessed when rotavirus infection occurs. You would not wish this to happen to you again nor to any child, especially your own. Severe diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to dehydration and this can result in potentially life-threatening complications in young children.
You as an adult are at risk of rotavirus infection as well. If you have not had rotavirus vaccination, you are at risk of not being able to eat or drink for 24 hours, and frequent vomiting that can last for more than 1 to 2 days. Frequent bowel movements, high fever, dehydration, physical weakness, and dizziness are among the other complications associated with rotavirus infection in an adult.
High Speed Spread
Rotavirus is spread through the faecal-oral route. Children are at high risk of infection because they may forget to or not wash their hands after going to the potty. Unfortunately you can’t be there every time your child washes his or her hands. Rotavirus only needs one opportunity to infect your child.
At daycare, rotavirus can spread very quickly because of the high number of children in close proximity to one another. Daycare workers can also spread the infection especially if they are in charge of diaper- changing duties. The virus can spread to anything you touch, including food and also fomites like toys and utensils. It will continue to persist for up to a week. If someone touches an unwashed hand or the contaminated object then touches his or her mouth, an infection can follow.
Prevention Is Key
Unfortunately, improving hygiene and sanitary practices will only have little influence on the risk of rotavirus infection in your household, or any other location, because the virus is highly infectious. Also there is no specific treatment available for rotavirus.
As such, prevention is the best method of protection for your child. Immunisation has proven itself to be one of the most effective methods of prevention. Rotavirus vaccination has been shown to provide up to 90% protection against severe rotavirus gastroenteritis.
There are currently two rotavirus vaccines available in Malaysia, both are given orally. Your child can receive them at private hospitals and clinics. They can be given from 6 weeks of age.
You have an 8 month window to protect your child against one of the most highly infectious childhood diseases. Protect your child from the discomfort and dangers of rotavirus infection. Take full advantage of the vaccines available. Speak to your healthcare provider for more information about the available rotavirus vaccines which are both effective and safe.