VIRUSES such as rotavirus and norovirus have been associated with gastroenteritis in children, one of the most common illnesses seen in children under age five who turn up at hospital emergency rooms across the world.
The Ministry of Health confirmed an increase in gastroenteritis cases locally, with an average 107 infections recorded weekly in children under five years old in 2022. Gastroenteritis cases have historically been major cause of death and disability in children, accounting for approximately 15 per cent of deaths in children around the world, with higher numbers in developing and underdeveloped countries. The condition is often accompanied by vomiting, nausea, fever as well as a runny nose, abdominal pains and sometimes blood in the stool.
Development of a rotavirus vaccine has dramatically reduced the severity of the disease caused by the rotavirus. It is available if desired, and is given along with the primary series of vaccines up to six months.
Here are some rotavirus facts for parents, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic.
Although rotavirus infections are unpleasant, you can usually treat this infection at home with extra fluids to prevent dehydration. Occasionally, severe dehydration requires receiving fluids through a vein (intravenously) in the hospital.
Good hygiene, such as washing your hands regularly, is important. But vaccination is the best way to prevent rotavirus infection.
A rotavirus infection usually starts within two days of exposure to the virus. Early symptoms are a fever and vomiting, followed by three to seven days of watery diarrhoea. The infection can cause abdominal pain as well.
When to see a doctor
Call your child's doctor if your child:
•Has diarrhoea for more than 24 hours
•Has black or tarry stool or stool containing blood or pus
•Has a temperature of 102° F (38.9° C) or higher
•Seems tired, irritable, or in pain
•Has signs or symptoms of dehydration, including dry mouth, crying without tears, little or no urination, unusual sleepiness, or unresponsiveness
Rotavirus is present in an infected person's stool two days before symptoms appear and for up to 10 days after symptoms lessen. The virus spreads easily through hand-to-mouth contact throughout this time — even if the infected person doesn't have symptoms.
If you have rotavirus and you don't wash your hands after using the toilet, or your child has rotavirus and you don't wash your hands after changing your child's diaper or helping your child use the toilet, the virus can spread to anything you touch, including food, toys, and utensils. If another person touches your unwashed hands or a contaminated object and then touches his or her mouth, an infection may follow. The virus can remain infectious on surfaces that haven't been disinfected for weeks or months.
It's possible to be infected with rotavirus more than once, even if you've been vaccinated. However, repeat infections are typically less severe.
Rotavirus infections are common in children ages 3 to 35 months — particularly those who spend time in child care settings. Older adults and adults caring for young children have an increased risk of infection as well.
Severe diarrhoea can lead to dehydration, particularly in young children. Left untreated, dehydration can become a life-threatening condition regardless of its cause.
To reduce the spread of rotavirus, wash your hands thoroughly and often — especially after you use the toilet, change your child's diaper, or help your child use the toilet. But even strict hand-washing doesn't offer any guarantees. And commonly used alcohol-based hand sanitisers have little effect on rotavirus.
The World Health Organization recommends that all countries give infants a rotavirus vaccine. There are two vaccines available:
•RotaTeq – This vaccine is given by mouth in three doses, often at two, four, and six months. The vaccine isn't approved for use in older children or adults.
•Rotarix – This vaccine is a liquid given in two doses to infants at ages two and four months.
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