Medical Specialties: Emergency medicine, Family practice, Pediatrics

Clinical Definition

Rotavirus is caused by a group of RNA viruses in the reoviridae family. It is a common cause of gastroenteritis. It is highly contagious and found in the stool of infected individuals. Although anyone can become infected with rotavirus, it is the leading cause of severe diarrhea in children. Vaccines are available to prevent rotavirus. 

In Our Own Words

Rotavirus is a common contagious viral infection worldwide, causing inflammation of the intestines, loose stools, and diarrhea. It is a common cause of diarrhea in toddlers and young children and before vaccine introduction, outbreaks of severe rotavirus diarrhea were the norm at day care centers and schools every winter in the United States. In austere environments around the world, it takes many lives.


Because diarrhea can be severe, complications from the illness include dehydration, which can be life threatening, especially in very young children. Vaccines are available in order to help prevent severe rotavirus gastroenteritis.

Relevant Conditions
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Diarrhea
  • Loose stools
Side Effects
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
Share this article
  • Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. "Rotavirus Infections." Accessed October 2013.
  • University of Rochester Medical Center. "What is Rotavirus?" Accessed October 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Rotavirus." Accessed October 2013.
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