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Rotavirus Gastroenteritis Treatment, Causes, and Prevention

Rotavirus Gastroenteritis Treatment, Causes, and Prevention

Gastroenteritis refers to an inflammation of the gastrointestinal or GI tract, usually caused by a virus called rotavirus. But how does rotavirus cause gastroenteritis, and what steps can people take in order to avoid getting infected?

How Does Rotavirus Cause Gastroenteritis?

Viral gastroenteritis is the most common form of gastroenteritis. Among adults, the virus responsible for gastroenteritis is usually the norovirus; while in children, it is the rotavirus. The reason behind this is that their immune systems have not finished developing, so they are more prone to infection.

Experts estimate that around 180,000 to 450,000 children worldwide die because of gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus. This is why it is important to take gastroenteritis in children seriously, especially if a child shows more serious symptoms.

The main mode of transmission for infection by rotavirus is through the fecal-oral route. This occurs when pathogens from one person’s contaminated feces are somehow ingested by someone else. Many times, this happens when a person does not practice proper handwashing after going to the bathroom and before preparing food.

A person can also be infected if they drink water contaminated with rotavirus. This is usually the case in places where there is no clean drinking water, or if the water supply has been contaminated by sewage.

What are the Symptoms?

Viral gastroenteritis may be caused by rotavirus and can have a wide variety of symptoms. Here are some of the possible symptoms of gastroenteritis from rotavirus:

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting are usually the first symptoms of rotavirus infection, especially in children. This mainly results from the digestive tract being inflamed, and eating or drinking can irritate the digestive tract even further, causing people to vomit or feel queasy.


Patients with rotavirus also usually experience fever as one of the initial symptoms. About 30-40% of children with rotavirus experience moderate fever as one of their symptoms. This usually tends to go away after two to three days up to a week, along with nausea and vomiting.


Another symptom of gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus is diarrhea. This symptom usually appears after vomiting and fever. It is important for parents to pay attention to their child’s symptoms, especially when it comes to diarrhea.

The reason behind this is that diarrhea can potentially lead to dehydration. If left untreated, patients can experience electrolyte imbalance, shock, and possibly death.

Causes of Gastroenteritis

Rotavirus Gastroenteritis Treatment

For the most part, there is no rotavirus gastroenteritis treatment per se. This is because it is a self-limiting viral infection, so antibiotics and antivirals are not usually necessary for treatment. The best thing to do if a person has viral gastroenteritis would be to make sure that the symptoms are managed well.

Dehydration is the biggest risk for patients with viral gastroenteritis. By staying well hydrated and making sure that they have enough electrolytes, dehydration can be prevented.

If the patient is not getting any better, or their symptoms are getting worse, seek medical attention. In some cases, intravenous fluids might are necessary for hydration, and most patients usually recover afterward.

How Can it Be Prevented?

Here are two of the most effective ways of preventing gastroenteritis caused by rotavirus:

Wash your hands often

Frequent handwashing is a simple, yet effective means of preventing sickness and infection. Be sure to wash your hands with clean, running water and soap for at least 20 seconds.

Be sure to clean in between your fingers, as well as under your fingernails. Afterward, dry your hands with a clean towel.

Avoid drinking contaminated water

As much as possible, try to avoid drinking water that has been contaminated. This means that you might need to boil your water before drinking or buy bottled water instead. This helps lower the risk of infection.

Learn more about Gastroenteritis here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Diagnosis, management, and prevention of rotavirus gastroenteritis in children, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5776699/, Accessed December 6, 2021

Rotavirus – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rotavirus/symptoms-causes/syc-20351300, Accessed December 6, 2021

[Rotavirus: clinical features and prevention] – PubMed, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14685487/, Accessed December 6, 2021

Risk Factors for Severe Rotavirus Gastroenteritis: The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, https://journals.lww.com/pidj/fulltext/2008/01001/risk_factors_for_severe_rotavirus_gastroenteritis.3.aspx, Accessed December 6, 2021

Group A rotavirus gastroenteritis: post-vaccine era, genotypes and zoonotic transmission, https://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1679-45082016000200021, Accessed December 6, 2021

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated Feb 05
Medically reviewed by Elfred Landas, M.D.