Rotavirus (or the lack thereof): A vaccine success story

Dr. Bencivenga

As a hospitalist, I see a sicker patient group. Only when a parent is very worried or a clinic provider feels they need ongoing attention do I see a child in the ED or in the hospital. Now, as we approach the end of summer, I can’t help but feel like something is missing. Five years ago, it was common in the spring and early summer to have children in the hospital for vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration from rotavirus. Rotavirus is a common virus that infects most children under 5 years of age and is most severe for children under 2 years of age. Every year there was a significant number of children who needed to stay in the hospital for IV fluids while they recovered from this virus. So, where did it go?

If your child is less than 4 years old then you may remember an oral vaccine received at the 2, 4 and 6 month visits. In 2006, the FDA approved the vaccine RotaTeq® and shortly thereafter, it was recommended routinely for infants. Since that time there have been other similar vaccines approved as well. This vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing rotavirus, but its goal was to reduce the severity of illness and prevent the need for hospitalization.

Recently, there have been some published studies on the effect this vaccine has had in the United States. One study showed a 46% decrease in need for hospitalization. Another study showed 100% effectiveness in preventing hospitalization compared to children who did not receive the vaccine. Wow! As a younger physician, it has been wonderful to see the impact vaccines can have on the health and well being of our children.

Although I love meeting the children and their families, I am glad more kids are at home. Staying in the hospital is no fun for anyone. To rotavirus, I say good riddance and you won’t be missed.

Dr. Jim Bencivenga
Pediatric Hospitalist
Meriter Hospital

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