Rotavirus | The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

Parents PACK


General information

Please visit the Vaccine Education Center for general information about rotavirus and the vaccine.

Additional information from past issues of the Parents PACK newsletter

Rotavirus and rotavirus vaccines

Rotavirus is a virus that causes severe vomiting and diarrhea and can quickly lead to dehydration. In the U.S. rotavirus season occurs during the winter. In the past, rotavirus sickened millions of infants and young children annually in the U.S. During winter months, about half of the hospital admissions and emergency room visits for children under 3 years of age were due to rotavirus infections. Additionally, about 3 of every 10 visits to doctors' offices during the winter by those less than 3 years of age were also the result of rotavirus infections.

Because of medical treatments, such as re-hydration, few in the U.S. die from rotavirus (about 20 to 60 deaths per year); however, in countries with limited or no access to medical care, hundreds of thousands of children die from infection with rotavirus. Throughout the world, about 2,000 children die each day due to rotavirus disease.

In 2006, a rotavirus vaccine became available for infants in the U.S. The vaccine is given by mouth at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. Studies comparing the 2007-2008 rotavirus season with previous rotavirus seasons found two effects of the rotavirus vaccine. First, the season was much more mild. Second, even though only about 1 in 3 infants were fully vaccinated, more people were protected due to herd immunity. Said another way, even those who are not immunized are less likely to suffer rotavirus disease because of vaccine use throughout the community at large. Overall, there was an 80 to 90 percent decrease in the number of cases when compared to the previous two rotavirus seasons.

A second rotavirus vaccine became available in 2008; it is given by mouth at 2 and 4 months of age. 

Scientists and public health officials continue to monitor rotavirus disease throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Updated: January 2013

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Rotavirus Vaccine Q&A

"Rotavirus: What you should know" Q&A sheet: