Early symptoms of rotavirus

The early symptoms of rotavirus more frequently affect children aged 3-35 months. Nevertheless, the disease can also infect older children and adults – though otherwise healthy adults experience mild symptoms of none at all. The first symptoms appear in about 2 days, and are mostly characterized 3-8 days of watery diarrhea preceded by fever, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Rotavirus symptoms that warrant calling a doctor


·         Severe or bloody diarrhea.

·         Repeated vomiting episodes for more than 3 hours.

·         Temperature 103 F or higher.

·         Lethargy.

·         Irritability.

·         Pain.

·         Dehydration:

-        Decreased urination.

-        Dryness in mouth and throat.

-        Dizziness when standing up.

-        Tearless crying.

-        Increased sleepiness.

-        Unresponsiveness.


·         Inability to keep liquids down for 24 hours.

·         Repeated vomiting episodes for more than 1 or 2 days.

·         Throwing up blood.

·         Bloody bowel movements.

·         Temperature 103 F or higher.

·         Dehydration:

-        Excessive thirst.

-        Dry mouth.

-        Little or no urination.

-        Dizziness when standing up.

-        Lightheadedness.


Rotavirus is a contagious disease that can cause gastroenteritis. But it can cause more than just physical symptoms. According to the CDC, rotavirus is responsible for over 400,000 doctor visits, over 200,000 ER visits, 55,000-70,000 hospitalizations, and 20-60 deaths among children under 5 years of age each year in the United States – and it caused an estimate of more than 450,000 deaths around the world in children under 5 in 2008 alone. Rotavirus is easily transmitted among infants and young children, especially those who spend time in child care settings – and in particular during the winter and spring (December-June). Additionally, elderly adults and adults who care for children with rotavirus, have a compromised immune system, or are traveling are at an increased risk of infection.

Infected people shed the virus in their feces when they are sick, and also during the first three days after recovery. Rotavirus is spread via the fecal-oral route. A person may contract the disease if they get stool in their mouths. This can happen accidentally – as opposed to on purpose, which some people actually do, though we need not discuss coprophagia here – by touching contaminated objects or surfaces then putting fingers in mouth. Such contaminated objects may include:

·         Hands.

·         Toys.

·         Surfaces.

·         Food.

·         Water.

There are no antiviral drugs for the treatment of rotavirus – and that includes antibiotics, which are intended for bacterial infections exclusively. Therefore, management of this condition revolves around preventing dehydration until the infection resolves itself in 3-8 days (as mentioned above). Mild dehydration can be treated with plenty of liquids, including over-the-counter oral rehydration solutions. Severe dehydration may require a hospital stay during which the patient is administered fluids intravenously.

Moreover, rotavirus is preventable. Practicing good hygiene, such washing hands with soap and water, is essential to prevent the transmission of the infection. But the best prevention method is the rotavirus vaccine. The infection was the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children in the US before the vaccine was introduced in 2006 – after which the incidence of rotavirus considerably dropped. According to the CDC, the vaccine prevents about 40,000-50,000 hospitalizations every year, and is indirectly responsible for the decrease of the illness in children and adults who have not been vaccinated.

Related: Early symptoms of food poisoning