Immunise Against Rotavirus - protect your child
What is rotavirus?
Rotavirus is a very infectious tummy bug. It can cause:
- diarrhoea (runny, watery poo, tūtae)
- abdominal (tummy) pain.
Rotavirus is also called gastroenteritis. It can lead to severe dehydration (lack of fluids) in children and in some cases death.
Rotavirus is spread through contact with the faeces (poo, tūtae) of an infected child or adult. It is easily spread if people don’t wash and dry their hands properly after going to the toilet or changing nappies.
How serious is it?
The main risk of rotavirus is that children will become dehydrated because of vomiting and diarrhoea. However, it usually clears within a few days, and most babies and children with rotavirus do not need to go to hospital.
Before immunisation was introduced, rotavirus resulted in 1 in every 5 children needing to see a doctor by the time they are 5 years old, and 1 in every 43 children needing hospital treatment for dehydration.
Rotavirus is very common. Almost all unimmunised children will get rotavirus before they are 3 years old. Adults can be infected with rotavirus, but the symptoms are usually very mild.
Rotavirus frequency and severity without vaccination
Almost all unimmunised children will get rotavirus before they are 3 years old.
Who is most at risk?
It’s more serious for these children if they have rotavirus.
- Infants aged between 6 months and 2 years
- Children with a low birth weight who are still under weight
- Children with high-risk medical conditions (eg, heart or kidney problems, or diabetes).
Immunisation is easy
Immunisation can prevent most rotavirus infections and almost all severe rotavirus infections.
- Rotavirus vaccine is simply squirted into your baby’s mouth.
- The vaccines are given to babies as part of their 6 week, 3 month and 5 month immunisations.
- If you miss these dates, you can catch up, but the first vaccine must be given before 15 weeks of age, and the second dose before babies are 25 weeks old. The vaccine is not given to older babies because its safety beyond that age has not been assessed.
- The vaccine protects young children while they are most at risk from dehydration.
- Immunisation is free.
The first vaccine must be given before 15 weeks of age.
Rotavirus frequency and severity after vaccination
Vaccination prevents infection in 70% of infants and severe infection in 98% of infants.
Possible responses to the vaccine
- A common response to the vaccine is mild, temporary diarrhoea and/or vomiting within 7 days after being vaccinated.
- There may be a small risk of intussusception (a type of bowel blockage). This occurs naturally in some babies each year, with no known cause. Intussusception is rare and can be treated in hospital. Signs include severe crying and tummy pain.
- The increased risk, if any, is very small compared to the risks of rotavirus infection.
If you are worried about your baby’s response to a vaccine, talk to your doctor or nurse or call the free Healthline service on 0800 611 116 any time day or night.
- Immunisation protects against rotavirus.
- Rotavirus is a common tummy bug that is easily caught by children.
- Rotavirus causes vomiting and diarrhoea (runny, watery poo/tūtae).
- The main risk from rotavirus is dehydration. It’s important to make sure children with rotavirus have plenty of fluids.
- It’s important to wash and dry hands carefully after changing nappies and before touching food to stop the spread of the virus.
Immunisation must start before your baby is 15 weeks old.
Where can I get more information?
If you want to know more about rotavirus and immunisation:
- talk to your doctor, nurse or medical centre or contact your local public health service
- go to:
- call 0800 IMMUNE (466 863) 9.00am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.
For free help after hours (24-hour service), contact Healthline on 0800 611 116.