Key Facts About Rotavirus Disease and Vaccines
Recent studies demonstrate that crucial gaps exist in the awareness of
rotavirus disease among public health providers in developing countries.1
Yet this missing information is key to designing effective rotavirus control
strategies. Here is a summary of the most important facts about rotavirus disease and vaccines.
- Rotavirus causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, and fever leading to rapid dehydration.
- Rotavirus is responsible for the deaths of an estimated 600,000 children
worldwide each year, 80 percent of whom live in developing countries.2
Due to a lack of routine rotavirus surveillance in some regions, the extent
of rotavirus disease mortality is unknown in many countries.
- Rotavirus causes nearly 2 million hospitalizations each year. In Asia,
up to 45 percent of the children hospitalized for diarrhea are infected with
- Rotavirus is found in all countries. Almost every child in the world
will suffer at least one infection by the time he or she is 3 years old.
- Providing clean drinking water and otherwise improving sanitation and
hygiene do not significantly reduce the spread of rotavirus. But few people
are aware of this fact—they assume that rotavirus can be controlled like
other water-borne diseases. This is one of the most dangerous information
gaps because it undermines the development of effective rotavirus control strategies.
- Because children with rotavirus often suffer frequent bouts of vomiting,
parents and caregivers have difficulty administering oral rehydration
solution (ORS) at home, lessening its effectiveness.4
- Studies of two new rotavirus vaccines recently demonstrated their safety
and efficacy among children in middle- and high-income countries.5,
- Clinical trials have been launched, and additional studies are planned,
to evaluate the impact of vaccines as a method for the prevention of severe
rotavirus disease in developing countries. Results generated from these
trials will help national governments make informed decisions about
introducing the vaccines in the public sector.
- Enhancing diarrheal disease control through a combined prevention and
treatment strategy—incorporating rotavirus vaccine; new, low-osmolarity
formulations of ORS; and zinc supplementation during diarrhea episodes—can
rapidly and significantly reduce child mortality where diarrheal disease is a serious burden.
For more information about rotavirus visit
www.rotavirusvaccine.org or email="mailto:[email protected]?subject=contact from rehydrate.org">[email protected].
. Studies were conducted by PATH in 2005 in India,
Indonesia, Nicaragua, Thailand, and the Ukraine. Results have been submitted for publication.
. Parashar U, Gibson C, Bresee J, Glass R. Rotavirus and
severe childhood diarrhea. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2006; 12(2). Available online:
. Bresee J, Fang Z, Wang B, et al. First report from the
Asian Rotavirus Surveillance Network. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2004; 10(6): 988–995. Available online:
4. Ahmed F. Children at risk of developing dehydration from
diarrhea: A case-control study. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics. 2002; 48(5): 259–263.
. Ruiz-Palacios G, Pérez-Schael I, Velázquez, F, et al.
Safety and efficacy of an attenuated vaccine against severe rotavirus
gastroenteritis. New England Journal of Medicine. 2006;354(1):11-22. Available online:
. Vesikari, T, Matson D, Dennehy P, et al. Safety and
efficacy of a pentavalent human–bovine (wc3) reassortant rotavirus vaccine. New
England Journal of Medicine. 2006;354(1):23-33. Available online: