Rotavirus is a disease that primarily affects infants and young children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Still, it can and does affect adults and teenagers as well. The major difference is that the symptoms of Rotavirus are not usually as serious when seen in teenagers. The virus, which comes in many forms, has a vaccine, but it does not provide complete immunity.
Rotavirus is found in an infected person’s stool. The virus can be in the stool before symptoms start and for up to 10 days after symptoms cease, according to MayoClinic.com. It can also inhabit respiratory drops, such as released when sneezing.
Rotavirus is spread through contact. It can contaminate water or linger on hard surfaces. In fact, the virus can survive for hours on hard, dry surfaces, according to MedicineNet.com. It is commonly transferred when a person does not wash his hands after using the toilet, helping a child use a toilet, or after changing a diaper. For this reason, teenagers who work in child care centers or frequently babysit are especially susceptible to catching the virus. Rotavirus can also spread through coughing and sneezing.
Teens infected by rotavirus will likely develop fevers, abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. The latter two symptoms are more commonly seen in younger children than in teens and adults. If the diarrhea is severe, dehydration can occur.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A diagnosis of rotavirus is made by analyzing a stool sample for the virus. There is no cure for rotavirus. The disease must run its course. This usually takes between three and nine days. During that time, it is important to monitor liquid intake to make sure dehydration doesn’t occur. Teens can also take pain relievers to reduce fevers and ease discomfort.
Prevention and Vaccine
Good hygiene practices are essential for preventing rotavirus in teens. Young adults should always wash their hands after using the toilet and before eating. There is a vaccine that can prevent up to 74 percent of rotavirus cases, according to MedicineNet.com, but that vaccine is only given to infants, not teenagers. In fact, almost all children have been infected with the virus before they were 5 years old, according to KidsHealth. Those that have had the vaccine, which began in 2006, are much less likely to need hospitalization when they become infected than those who did not get vaccinated. Today, teens who do become infected with rotavirus usually have some degree of immunity, either through vaccination or through acquiring the disease as children, and therefore do not suffer serious symptoms.