The reality of rotavirus

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Rotavirus is a virus that causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines, resulting in the kind of severe diarrhea, vomiting, and fever that lead to dehydration and too often death in young children. Because the virus is responsible for an estimated half-million deaths each year in children younger than five years old, the World Health Organization recommends routine use of the rotavirus vaccine in all countries. (In fact, rotavirus was the leading cause of severe diarrhea in American children younger than five until the vaccine was introduced in 2006.)

Now, a CDC report just published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases has updated the estimated number of deaths worldwide that are attributable to rotavirus-related diarrhea in children younger than five years. In 2008, 453,00 had died more than half of whom were from just five countries: Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, India, and Pakistan.

Based on this updated estimate, the CDC research team concluded that introduction of effective and available rotavirus vaccines could substantially affect worldwide deaths attributable to diarrhea. The team hopes that the new estimates will add weight to the WHO s recommendation, eventually benefiting developing countries where the facilities for implementation are currently more limited.

ACSH is especially aware of the toll of rotavirus, since one of our trustees, Dr. Paul Offit, of the Children s Hospital of Philadelphia, helped develop RotaTeq, one of the two available rotavirus vaccines. We d also like to point out that there are several organizations dedicated to making vaccinations for rotavirus and other significant illnesses more widely accessible in developing countries. Take a look at what two of the most well known of these charitable organizations are doing: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the GAVI Alliance.