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90 percent of New Zealand children will get rotavirus by the age of three years.
Rotavirus is a highly infectious virus of the gut. It can range from a short period of mild, watery diarrhoea to severe, dehydrating diarrhoea with vomiting, fever, and shock.
If you think your child has rotavirus, this can only be confirmed by laboratory testing.
How it is spread
The virus is spread by contact with the faeces (poos) of an infected person. This can happen if people don’t wash their hands properly after going to the toilet or changing nappies.
If your child has rotavirus, the symptoms are:
- sudden onset of vomiting and watery diarrhoea which can last from three to eight days
- abdominal pain.
Rotavirus can lead to severe dehydration that can be fatal if not treated.
Adults can catch rotavirus, but most will have no symptoms.
For more information and when to see a doctor, visit the page on Viral gastroenteritis on the Kidshealth website.
Stop rotavirus spreading
Careful handwashing is important to stop the spread of rotavirus. Be aware that the virus can survive outside the body, so that hard surfaces, toys, utensils and other objects can become contaminated.
If your child has rotavirus, they should be kept home from school or early childhood services until they are well, with no further diarrhoea or vomiting. This will help prevent the spread of rotavirus in your community.
Rotavirus vaccine is an oral (taken by mouth) vaccine available in New Zealand at a cost. Talk to your doctor if you’d like the rotavirus vaccination for your baby – the first dose must be received by 15 weeks old.
Making a decision about immunisation
Risks associated with rotavirus
- Children may become dehydrated from diarrhoea and require hospital admission. In less developed countries children may die from rotavirus infection. This is extremely rare in New Zealand.
Risks associated with the vaccine
- There is no evidence of moderate or serious reactions to the vaccine.
Immunisation is your choice. If you have questions, talk to your doctor or practice nurse or call the Immunisation Advisory Centre free helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).