Rotavirus

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Rotavirus A
Rotavirus B
Rotavirus C
Rotavirus D
Rotavirus E

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea among infants and young children,[1] and is one of several viruses that cause infections often called stomach flu, despite having no relation to influenza. It is a genus of double-stranded RNA virus in the family Reoviridae. By the age of five, nearly every child in the world has been infected with rotavirus at least once.[2] However, with each infection, immunity develops, and subsequent infections are less severe;[3] adults are rarely affected.[4] There are five species of this virus, referred to as A, B, C, D, and E.[5] Rotavirus A, the most common, causes more than 90% of infections in humans.

The virus is transmitted by the faecal-oral route. It infects and damages the cells that line the small intestine and causes gastroenteritis. Although rotavirus was discovered in 1973[6] and accounts for up to 50% of hospitalisations for severe diarrhoea in infants and children,[7] its importance is still not widely known within the public health community, particularly in developing countries.[8] In addition to its impact on human health, rotavirus also infects animals, and is a pathogen of livestock.[9]

Rotavirus is usually an easily managed disease of childhood, but worldwide more than 500,000 children under five years of age still die from rotavirus infection each year[10] and almost two million more become severely ill.[8] In the United States, before initiation of the rotavirus vaccination programme, rotavirus caused about 2.7 million cases of severe gastroenteritis in children, almost 60,000 hospitalisations, and around 37 deaths each year.[11] Public health campaigns to combat rotavirus focus on providing oral rehydration therapy for infected children and vaccination to prevent the disease.[12]

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