Rotavirus, what it is and why it is useful to vaccinate newborns

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Marie-Ange Demory
@marie-angedemory
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Ultima tappa of our journey between vaccines. Today we face one of the most new arrived on market, the one against the rotavirus, for an virus which can be a lot annoying and, in some cases, even severe. Let's see what it is.

ROTAVIRUS, WHAT IS IT 

Rotavirus (especially strain A) can cause a form of pediatric gastroenteritis, mainly affecting infants and children by the age of 5. In very young babies (between 6 and 24 months) it can cause severe diarrhea which, in turn, can lead to dehydration. The latter is the highest risk for children infected with rotavirus and presents with reduced urine, excessive thirst, sunken eyes, sleepiness and rapid heart rate. Very dehydrated children must be treated in hospital, especially very small ones.



Rotavirus gastroenteritis is transmitted by mouth or feces, through ingestion of contaminated food or water. Communities, such as kindergartens, are therefore a "privileged" source of contagion and, in certain periods of the year, even small epidemics can occur. 

Rotavirus gastroenteritis is a worldwide disease. On the European continent, seasonal incidence peaks occur between November and March, but the virus is present substantially all year round and therefore difficult to completely eradicate. In developing countries, rotavirus is responsible for around 500 deaths a year.

In addition to the vaccine, careful hygiene is recommended both at home and in common areas to avoid contagion. The advice to wash your hands often with soap and to do the same with children is essential to avoid running into this disease and limit contagions. Unfortunately, once taken you do not become immune, although subsequent infections may be milder.


The disease has an incubation period of approximately two days. Subsequently, fever (not particularly high), gastric disturbances, vomiting and watery diarrhea occur for 3-8 days. Fever and vomiting are the first symptoms to appear, then diarrhea, which can last up to a week. The therapy consists in the administration of hydro-saline solutions to replenish fluids and mineral salts lost with diarrhea.


In short, rotavirus is not just a trivial "stomach ache" and protecting newborns from this virus with the vaccine is very important. The vaccine, which is one of those recommended, gives protection against the most frequent strains of rotavirus and, unlike the others that are injected, is administered by mouth.


WHEN THE VACCINE SHOULD BE GIVEN

The first dose of the rotavirus vaccine can be given from 6 weeks of age.

The second after a minimum interval of 4 weeks and the cycle should be completed by the child's 24 weeks of age for it to be effective. After 24 weeks of life, the vaccine is no longer given.


POSSIBLE REACTIONS TO THE VACCINE

Irritability, loss of appetite or fever, diarrhea and / or vomiting may occur after administration of the rotavirus vaccine.

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