Many people are familiar with rotavirus infection firsthand: the virus, most often "brought" by a child from kindergarten, can unsettle the whole family for several days. At the same time, spoiled food is often blamed for nausea, vomiting and diarrhea - it seems that all family members “ate something wrong”. Attempts to treat an intestinal infection with antibiotics do not give results: as with any viral infections, antibacterial agents are useless in this case. We will tell you where the rotavirus infection comes from and what to do with it.
Text: Ksenia Akinshina
How the infection is transmitted
Under an electron microscope, this virus looks like a wheel - hence its name, from the Latin rota (wheel). It is transmitted by the fecal-oral route - that is, it is a typical disease of dirty hands. In countries where tap water is not well treated, rotavirus can spread through water. In addition, back in 1993, a study was conducted in kindergartens, in which the virus was found on the surface of telephones, drinking fountains, tables for playing with water.
Rotavirus spreads easily among young children, who, in turn, transmit it to family members and other people with whom they interact. After the onset of symptoms, the virus continues to be excreted in the faeces for up to ten days (and in people with immunodeficiency, up to a month). Good hygiene - washing hands and keeping them clean are important, but not enough.
Why is it dangerous
According to the World Health Organization, rotavirus infection is the cause of a quarter of all diseases associated with acute diarrhea in children under five years of age. In the European region, it leads to the death of more than ten thousand children every year.
After one to three days of the incubation period (when the infection has occurred, but the symptoms have not yet appeared), vomiting and diarrhea occur, the temperature rises, weakness and abdominal pain may appear. These symptoms can last from three to eight days and lead to serious complications, including dehydration. In this case, a person loses more fluid than enters the body.
In young children, with dehydration, dry skin, tongue, mouth, crying without tears, dry diaper for three hours, sunken eyes and cheeks, lethargy and irritability are noticeable. In adults, a very strong thirst appears, urination becomes rare, and urine becomes dark, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion appear. This condition is life threatening, which means that it needs to be treated in a hospital under the supervision of doctors. If you suspect dehydration, seek medical attention immediately.
How to be treated
As with most viral infections, there is no specific cure for rotavirus, and antibiotics are understandably useless. This does not mean that nothing needs to be done - supportive therapy will help to transfer the disease more easily and avoid serious complications. First of all, you need to do the replenishment of fluid losses - drink water, isotonic drinks or special pharmacy salt preparations. Children should be given small portions of liquid more often. In severe cases, the fluid is given intravenously in a hospital.
It is important to avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and fatty foods - this will irritate the intestines and worsen the condition. It is important for both adults and children to drink plenty of fluids and eat soft foods so as not to irritate the digestive system. The American Academy of Pediatricians for severe diarrhea recommends monitoring body temperature, paying attention to danger signs such as blood in stools, not giving children boiled milk, salted broth or soup, and not trying to make a formula to replenish lost minerals yourself.
The "benefits" of cola for rotavirus infection is a common myth. It is justified by the fact that phosphoric acid can supposedly destroy the virus, and the drink itself serves as an antiseptic and replenishes the loss of fluid. In fact, there is no official recommendation on the use of cola for diarrhea or rotavirus infection anywhere in the world. Most likely, the "treatment" of gastrointestinal disorders with soda came from countries where bottled drink is a more affordable option than special rehydration mixes, and safer (in terms of infections) than tap water.
How to protect yourself
Vaccination is the only reliable way to protect against rotavirus infection. Today in Russia this vaccination is not included in the national calendar, that is, it is not paid for by the compulsory medical insurance system, so parents of newborns should attend to vaccination at their own expense. The vaccine available in Russia does not require an injection - these are drops for oral administration. The first dose is given between six and twelve weeks of age, and the vaccination must be completed (two more doses) before the child is thirty-two weeks old. The effectiveness and safety of the vaccine have been confirmed in studies involving more than 70 thousand children.
Photos: Kateryna_Kon - stock.adobe.com (1, 2, 3)