Viral gastroenteritis is more common in cool weather and can be caused by different viruses, the most common ones include rotavirus. Rotavirus, as its name suggests, is a wheel-shaped virus that appears under an electron microscope and is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea in children worldwide. Major symptoms of infection are vomiting and diarrhoea, including stomachache, fever, etc. Rotavirus has a greater impact on young children, because children's intestinal and immune systems are underdeveloped, so the reaction and severity may be relatively high once infected.
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Since infants and young children could not express discomfort verbally, parents need to judge based on the observation. It is not uncommon that infants and young children spit up milk occasionally with changes in stool shape and odour, if the bowel habit changes more frequently, e.g. the colour of the stool changes suddenly up to 10 times (compared to only 3 times generally), with loose stools, it may be caused by a viral infection.
Treatment and prevention of rotavirus
Currently, there is no cure for rotavirus, other than to relieve symptoms. Severe dehydration occurs occasionally in young children. Parents shall provide enough water to their children and help reduce fever. Most of the symptoms will be stabilised within 2 to 3 days.
Rotavirus vaccine is not currently included in the regular government "Hong Kong Children's Vaccination Program", and parents need to arrange vaccination for their children at their own expense. There are oral rotavirus vaccines on the market. Parents may discuss with their doctors the time for vaccination. In general, protection is diminished if a child vaccinates after age one. As the child's immune system has grown, the response and severity of infection may be relatively reduced, and parents may arrange it according to the child's needs.
Rotavirus is mainly transmitted through the oral and faecal route, but can also be transmitted through eating and drinking contaminated water and food, or by touching contaminated surfaces. In addition to the oral rotavirus vaccine for infants, which is effective in preventing this infection, maintaining good personal, food and environmental hygiene is paramount.
The oral rotavirus vaccine is now available at our clinic.