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What is it?

Rotavirus is a virus that causes severe diarrhea and vomiting. It affects mostly babies and young children.


Severe watery diarrhea

  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain

Dehydration with symptoms including:

  • Decreased urination
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Feeling dizzy when standing up
  • Crying with few or no tears
  • Unusual sleepiness or fussiness

How does it spread?

People who are infected with rotavirus shed the virus in their stool (poop). If you get rotavirus particles in your mouth, you can get sick. This can happen if you:

  • Touch contaminated objects or surfaces then put your fingers in your mouth
  • Put your unwashed hands that are contaminated with poop into your mouth
  • Eat contaminated food

Rotavirus can survive on objects for several days. It is very difficult to stop its spread just by hand washing or disinfecting surfaces. The best way to protect young children from rotavirus is to get them vaccinated.


Two or more doses of either of the two available rotavirus vaccines are recommended. Both brands of the rotavirus vaccines are given by mouth (drops).

Depending on which vaccine is used:
3 doses given at ages 2 months, 4 months, and 6 months
or 2 doses given at ages 2 months, and 4 months

Disease and vaccine impact

Rotavirus was the leading cause of severe diarrhea among infants and young children in the United States before rotavirus vaccine was introduced in 2006. Each year, the vaccine prevents an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 hospitalizations among U.S. infants and young children.

Prior to vaccine introduction, almost all U.S. children were infected with rotavirus before their 5th birthday. Each year, among U.S. children younger than 5 years of age, rotavirus led to:

  • More than 400,000 doctor visits,
  • More than 200,000 emergency room visits,
  • 55,000 to 70,000 hospitalizations, and
  • 20 to 60 deaths.