What is it?
Rotavirus is a common cause of viral gastroenteritis in children less than 5 years of age.
What to look for
Symptoms of disease include vomiting, diarrhea, fever, dehydration and drowsiness.
How is it transmitted?
Rotavirus is transmitted via the faecal-oral route.
Prior to the introduction of Rotavirus vaccine on the National Immunisation Program in 2007, about 4% of children were hospitalised with rotavirus gastroenteritis by the age of 5 years, with on average one death per year. These rates have dropped dramatically since its introduction. Rotarix® is administered in a 2-dose schedule at approximately 2 months (from 6 weeks) and 4 months of age. The 1st dose must be administered prior to 15 weeks of age and the 2nd dose prior to 25 weeks of age .
Infants living in household with persons who have an immunodeficiency disorder or impaired immune status can still be vaccinated.
Rotavirus vaccine should not be given to any infant with a previous history of intussusception (a rare form of bowel blockage) or a congenital abnormality, which pre-disposes them to intussusception. Infants with severe combined immunodeficiency disorder (SCID) are also excluded from vaccination. The vaccine should also not be administered to an infant with anaphylaxis to a previous dose of Rotavirus vaccine.
There is evidence from Australian and international research that there is a small increase in intussusception cases in infants who receive the oral rotavirus vaccine. Intussusception is a rare condition where the bowel slides or telescopes inside itself causing a blockage. Infants may cry, pull up their legs and later have vomiting and sometimes blood in the stools. In most cases the cause of intussusception is not known. It has been estimated that the increased risk with rotavirus vaccines means an additional six cases per 100,000 infants vaccinated.
- National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS): Fact sheet
- Better Health Channel: Rotavirus
- MVEC: Preterm infant immunisation
Reviewed by: Georgie Lewis (Clinical manager, SAEFVIC, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) and Rachael McGuire (SAEFVIC Research Nurse, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute)
Date: February 2018
Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre (MVEC) staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.
You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family’s personal health. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult a healthcare professional.