World Immunization Week Spotlight: rotavirus

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Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhea and vomiting (gastroenteritis) in infants and young children worldwide. Every year approximately half a million children under five die from rotavirus infections, according to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, with most of these children living in low-income countries, but it still appears here in the US.

Rotavirus is a highly contagious infection that commonly begins with fever and vomiting followed by diarrhea and rapid dehydration. It is found in all countries, with 95% of children worldwide infected with the rotavirus virus by three to five years of age. However, mortality is considerably higher in developing countries as access to medical care is more limited.

Vaccination is recognised as a highly effective way to protect young children against this disease. Given that prevention is difficult even in a sanitary environment, the WHO recommends the inclusion of rotavirus vaccines for infants in all national immunization programs in all regions including both developing and developed countries.

"Rotavirus vaccines have enormous potential to save lives...we urgently need to get these life-saving vaccines to children in developing countries," the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) Alliance declared last year.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about malaria--since it is World Malaria Day--and why we should care about it in the US.

Image courtesy of the World Health Organization.