The Rotavirus infection: another reason to vaccinate

As pediatric residents, we would mark off each season of the year for the diseases we encountered. The cooler fall weather and the viruses shared at the beginning of school triggered the asthmatics to begin coughing. Wintertime inevitably brought the little ex-preemies with RSV into the hospital. And by spring we were assured to have at least three or four infants on our team admitted for dehydration from the dreaded Rotavirus infection.

As a pediatric hospitalist attending 10 years later, I still hear the wheezing children in the fall and the coughing, feverish babies in the winter. But notably missing is the unmistakable smell of Rotavirus filling the halls of the children’s hospital.

Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe diarrhea leading to dehydration in infants and young children throughout the world, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, this virus is solely responsible for over 450,000 deaths worldwide each year. Thankfully, the introduction of the Rotavirus vaccine in 2006 has dramatically reduced the number of infections.

It’s easy to read these statistics and envision poor children in third-world countries suffering from lack of clean water, unable to access medical care. It’s a little harder to stomach the statistic that before the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine, the disease caused an estimated 20-60 deaths each year in children under 5 in the US.

A new study by the CDC published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in June, 2015 has found that the rate of hospitalization due to rotavirus has decreased dramatically since 2006, noted to have declined by 55 percent in 2012. This means fewer children in the hospital, fewer parents out of work caring for their children, fewer diseases being spread from child to child.

As if we needed another reason convincing us to vaccinate…

About Dr. Kristie Rivers, Bundoo Pediatrician

Dr. Kristie Rivers is an Attending Physician, Assistant Medical Director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Program, and Director of Pediatric Medical Education at a children’s hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She cares for hospitalized children and also teaches pediatric residents and medical students.


  1. Can you tell me how it’s okay to inject infants with formaldehyde when it’s been banned from use in public schools because it’s a carcinogen? Students don’t touch the specimens with their bare hands and they consider it dangerous but doctors are okay with injecting it into people? Please explain.

    1. According to the CDC website, “Formaldehyde is used to inactivate bacterial products for toxoid vaccines, (these are vaccines that use an inactive bacterial toxin to produce immunity.) It is also used to kill unwanted viruses and bacteria that might contaminate the vaccine during production. Most formaldehyde is removed from the vaccine before it is packaged. Millions of doses of vaccines are administered to children in this country each year. Ensuring that those vaccines are potent, sterile, and safe requires the addition of minute amounts of chemical additives.” Hope this answers your question and alleviates some of your concerns!

  2. I think this is such a great success story, and can help people realize that vaccines are not all about “old” diseases like polio. Why would you ever want your kid to have this and end up in the hospital with it?? Vaccinate!


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