Fact Sheet Expert Opinion First Person Photo Essay




Annual number of cases (under five): 125 million

Annual number of deaths (under five): 600,000

The Disease:

Rotavirus is a leading cause of severe diarrhoea in children, particularly in the developing world. While rotavirus causes only a fraction of total diarrhoea cases, it results in a disproportionate number of serious illness and death. Rotavirus is highly infectious and spreads when children come in contact with the virus in faecal matter or in contaminated food or water. The virus, named for its wheel-like shape, is found worldwide and almost every child will be affected at some time during the first few years of life.


Symptoms appear about two days after infection when children may suffer fever, watery diarrhoea and severe vomiting. Rotavirus usually lasts for up to a week, but can linger if a child’s immune defences are weak.  If not promptly treated through oral rehydration therapy, the rotavirus can cause severe dehydration and death in vulnerable children.


There are vaccines under development for rotavirus, but none that are currently commercially available. Careful attention to hygiene (personal hygiene and sanitation) can also help prevent the spread.

GAVI Goal/Milestone:

By 2005, the vaccine efficacy and burden of disease will be known for all regions for Rotavirus (and pneumococcal vaccine) and mechanisms identified to make the vaccines available to the poorest countries.

[Sources: WHO, CDC]