The virusA rotavirus has a characteristic wheel-like appearance when viewed by electron microscopy (the name rotavirus is derived from the Latin rota, meaning "wheel"). Rotaviruses are nonenveloped, double-shelled viruses. The genome is composed of 11 segments of double-stranded RNA, which code for six structural and five nonstructural proteins. The virus is stable in the environment.
Transmission and occurrenceThe primary mode of transmission is fecal-oral, although some have reported low titers of virus in respiratory tract secretions and other body fluids. Because the virus is stable in the environment, transmission can occur through ingestion of contaminated water or food and contact with contaminated surfaces. In the United States and other countries with a temperate climate, the disease has a winter seasonal pattern, with annual epidemics occurring from November to April. The highest rates of illness occur among infants and young children, and most children in the United States are infected by 2 years of age. Adults can also be infected, though disease tends to be mild.
DiagnosisDiagnosis may be made by rapid antigen detection of rotavirus in stool specimens. Strains may be further characterized by enzyme immunoassay or reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, but such testing is not commonly done.
TreatmentFor persons with healthy immune systems, rotavirus gastroenteritis is a self-limited illness, lasting for only a few days. Treatment is nonspecific and consists of oral rehydration therapy to prevent dehydration. About one in 40 children with rotavirus gastroenteritis will require hospitalization for intravenous fluids.
PreventionThe rotavirus vaccine is very effective in preventing rotavirus gastroenteritis. The US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends routine vaccination of infants with either of two available vaccines. RotaTeq® (RV5), licensed in 2006, is given in 3 doses at ages 2, 4 and 6 months; Rotarix® (RV1), licensed in 2008, is given in 2 doses at ages 2 and 4 months. These vaccines differ in how they are made and when they are given, but both are given orally and both provide protection against the disease.
Related category• HEALTH AND DISEASE
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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