Each year, rotavirus gastroenteritis is responsible for most diarrhea, the severity of which may require hospitalization in infants and young children under two years of age. This viral infection is very common in the winter period and appears in the form of an epidemic. What is it about? How is this virus transmitted? How to treat and prevent diarrhea? Answers with Dr. Hervé Haas, head of pediatrics at Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco.
What is that than rotavirus?
Rotavirus is a virus responsible for acute gastroenteritis, mainly in babies under two years old. With a maximum peak of contamination located between six and twelve months of life. “It is particularly aggressive during the first two contacts. This is why, last July, the High Authority for Health (Has) recommended that parents vaccinate the baby before the age of one year; the aim is to prevent the most severe forms and to avoid hospitalizations (read box) “, specifies the pediatrician. Older children and adults can also be contaminated, but they will develop a milder form.
What are symptoms?
Rotavirus gastroenteritis is inflammation of the lining of the stomach and intestine. It causes fever, vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhea. “The particularity of this viral infection is that it causes particularly liquid and abundant stools. The main risk is severe dehydration (read below).”
How is it transmitted?
Rotavirus gastroenteritis is transmitted by the hands or via toys that children exchange. Contamination by rotavirus is therefore very common in communities, with the nanny or in the crèche. It can also be a “faecal-oral” transmission, that is to say that children become contaminated by putting hands in their mouths that have been in contact with infected stools or soiled soil.
How to treat the child?
The treatment is based, whatever the cause, on the administration of oral rehydration solutions (ORS) and generally does not require other treatments. “Water should be offered regularly and in small quantities because drinking too much water can make the child vomit”warns Dr. Hervé Haas.
In the majority of cases, gastroenteritis heals spontaneously within a week.
If it is a breastfed baby, it should be given to the breast on demand. For a bottle-fed baby, we can offer him his usual milk. But it happens that the pediatrician advises, for a few weeks, taking a milk without cow protein. In effect, “ in case of gastroenteritis, the intestine is abraded and dairy products can increase abdominal pain”says the pediatrician.
According to Public Health France, the transmission of acute viral gastroenteritis being mainly human-to-human, careful and frequent cleaning of the hands with soap is necessary to limit transmission. “Since rotavirus is very resistant in the environment and present on surfaces, these must be cleaned carefully and regularly in places with a high risk of transmission.”