Incidence of rotavirus is similar in developed and developing countries, suggesting that improved sanitation alone is not sufficient to prevent the infection. In 2008 approximately 453,000 child deaths due to rotavirus gastroenteritis infection occurred worldwide, accounting for about 5 percent of all child deaths.

Rotavirus is highly communicable, with near universal infection of children by age 5. Spread within families, institutions, hospitals, and childcare settings is common. In the pre-vaccine era in the United States, about 3 million rotavirus infections occurred annually, with 95 percent of children experiencing at least one rotavirus infection by 5 years of age. In the United States, rotaviruses are responsible for 5 to 10 percent of all gastroenteritis episodes in children less than 5 years old. Rotavirus accounts for 30 to 50 percent of all hospitalizations for gastroenteritis among U.S. children younger than 5 years of age.

Prevention and Treatment: Rotavirus vaccination is recommended for all national immunization programs. No specific therapy is currently available against rotaviruses. Fluid replacement is required to prevent dehydration. Promotion of early and exclusive breastfeeding, hand washing, improved water supply, and sanitation is part of a comprehensive strategy to control diarrheal disease.

Vaccines: Two live attenuated oral rotavirus vaccines are presently licensed for use in the United States. RV5 (RotaTeq) is given in three doses, while RV1 (Rotarix) is given in two doses. The vaccination series for both vaccines may be started as early as 6 weeks of age. The maximum age for vaccine doses varies by country.

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