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Rotavirus is a virus that is the most common cause of diarrhea in young children. It is endemic worldwide and also affects many species of livestock, which suffer a much higher mortality rate. About 50% of hospitalizations for diarrhea are caused by rotavirus. There are five different types, but 90% of cases are caused by type A. Almost every human contracts the virus by the age of five, but thereafter develops antibodies so adult cases of the disease are very rare. In developed countries, there are several million cases a year and several thousand hospitalizations, but the mortality rate is well under .002%.
Rotavirus is transmitted by swallowing material contaminated by fecal matter. It first presents with vomiting and a slight fever before proceeding to diarrhea. In most cases, the disease is easily managed by providing fluids.
In young children, rotavirus should always be part of a differential diagnosis when diarrhea presents and tests should be run to confirm. Hydration should be closely monitored as the disease only causes death through severe dehydration.