Rotavirus is a contagious virus that can cause gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines). Symptoms include severe watery diarrhea, often with vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. Infants and young children are most likely to get rotavirus disease. They can become severely dehydrated and need to be hospitalized and can even die. Rotavirus was the leading cause of severe diarrhea among infants and young children in the United States before the rotavirus vaccine was introduced in 2006.
Prior to the vaccine, almost all U.S. children were infected with rotavirus before their 5th birthday. Globally, rotavirus is still the leading cause of severe diarrhea in infants and young children. In 2008, rotavirus caused an estimated 453,000 deaths worldwide in children younger than 5 years of age.