Rotarix is licensed to prevent rotavirus, a common but potentially serious childhood infection that causes severe diarrhea. Since there are no antiviral medications to treat rotavirus, the best way to protect an infant or child from this infection is through vaccination. There are currently no approved uses of Rotarix for adults or children older than 24 weeks old.
What Is Rotarix Used For?
Rotarix® (rotavirus vaccine) is a routine childhood vaccine used to prevent rotavirus. It is given by mouth as two separate doses in early infancy.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that this vaccine not be used, at least temporarily, since DNA from porcine circovirus type 1 (PCV1) has been found in the vaccine. This means that DNA from a virus found in pigs has been found in the vaccine.
This particular virus is not known to cause any diseases in humans, and there is no evidence that this finding poses any safety risk. However, as a precaution, the FDA has recommended that the use of Rotarix be temporarily suspended. Children who started the vaccine series with Rotarix can finish the series with RotaTeq®, a different rotavirus vaccine.
Rotavirus is a virus that can cause severe diarrhea, usually with fever and vomiting. It is the leading cause of diarrhea in infants and young children in the United States and worldwide. Before the rotavirus vaccine, rotavirus resulted in the hospitalization of approximately 55,000 to 70,000 children each year in the United States and the death of over 600,000 children annually worldwide.
Large amounts of this virus are shed in the stools of infected people. This contaminated stool can easily spread to hands and objects.
Once the virus has entered the body, it travels to the small intestine, where it begins to multiply. Approximately two days later, symptoms can begin. This period between infection with the rotavirus and the beginning of symptoms is known as the "rotavirus incubation period."
Because improved sanitation and hygiene have not decreased rotavirus much in the United States, the best way to protect an infant or child from this infection is through vaccination.
Not all people who are infected with the virus will develop symptoms. If symptoms do occur, the illness typically begins suddenly. Common rotavirus symptoms include:
- Watery diarrhea
- Severe dehydration
- Upset stomach
- High fever (greater than 102.2°F)
- Loss of interest in eating
- Mucus in stool.
There are no antiviral medications to treat rotavirus. Therefore, rotavirus treatment goals are focused on providing supportive care while the body fights the infection. Supportive care refers to treating symptoms, such as dehydration, that occur as a result of the rotavirus infection. Fortunately, for people with healthy immune systems, the body is able to effectively kill the virus, and after three to nine days, symptoms usually improve.