Te mate huaketo puku Rotavirus

Rotavirus is a viral infection that causes runny poos (diarrhoea), vomiting and fever. It most often affects pēpi and tamariki aged 3 months to 2 years. Some tamariki get so sick they need to go to hospital.

Symptoms of rotavirus

Symptoms develop 1 to 2 days after infection. Adults can catch rotavirus, but usually have milder symptoms or no symptoms.

Symptoms for tamariki start suddenly and include:

  • vomiting
  • runny poos (diarrhoea) that can last from 3 to 8 days
  • fever
  • tummy pain.

Symptoms can range from a short period of mild, watery poos to severe, dehydrating diarrhoea with vomiting and low-grade fever.

Severe dehydration from these symptoms usually happens in tamariki aged 3 months to 2 years old.

Complications for tamariki

Rotavirus increases the risk of bowel obstruction (intussusception) particularly in pēpi under 1 year.

Tamariki can become dehydrated from runny poos and need to go to hospital. Severe dehydration can be fatal if not treated.

Death from rotavirus infection is extremely rare in New Zealand.

When to get medical advice

If your pēpi is less than 6 months old and has vomiting or runny poos you should see a healthcare provider urgently. They can become unwell quickly. If your tamariki have symptoms that you are worried about:

  • contact your usual doctor or healthcare provider
  • call Healthline for free advice 0800 611 116
  • call 111 for an ambulance in an emergency.

When to get immediate medical advice

How rotavirus spreads

Rotavirus is a tummy bug that spreads easily between people. It spreads from contact with an infected person's poo (faeces). This can happen if people do not wash their hands properly after going to the toilet or changing nappies.

Diagnosing rotavirus

Many illnesses cause runny poos. Rotavirus is often diagnosed based on symptoms and a physical exam. Your doctor may ask for a poo (stool) sample to confirm a diagnosis.

Staying home

If your tamariki has rotavirus, they should stay home from school or early childhood care:

  • until they are well
  • for 48 hours after the last episode of runny poo or vomiting.

This will help prevent the spread of rotavirus.

Careful handwashing is also important to stop the spread of rotavirus.

Treatment for rotavirus

You cannot treat rotavirus with antibiotics because it is a viral infection.

Medicines that prevent or reduce diarrhoea are not recommended for rotavirus.

Caring for pēpi and tamariki

The most important thing to do is to keep your tamariki hydrated.

  • Offer them small amounts of fluid often.
  • Keep offering them fluids even if they are throwing up (vomiting).
  • If you are breastfeeding, continue to feed on demand — you may need to feed more often.
  • If your pēpi is on formula, keep giving them formula feeds.

Fizzy drinks and sports drinks have too much sugar and can make runny poos worse. Instead, offer your tamariki clean water.

You can also ask a healthcare provider or pharmacy about oral rehydration solutions.

Tamariki can start eating solids whenever they feel ready. Plain foods such as toast or dry biscuits are good to start with.

Preventing rotavirus

Immnisation is the best protection from rotavirus. It prevents infection in 70% of pēpi and severe infection in 98% of pēpi.

Find out who needs the rotavirus vaccine and when to get it.

Rotavirus vaccine

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