Australia's first vaccines to prevent rotavirus gastroenteritis (gastro) in children are now available.
Rotavirus is a virus which causes a sudden onset of watery diarrhoea, fever and vomiting which can lead to serious dehydration (drying out). The infection is most common between 6 and 24 months of age and infects almost all children by the age of 5 years. Children under 2 years are most severely affected.
Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea in children. Almost 10,000 young children are admitted to hospital each year in Australia with rotavirus infection. The disease is seen most at this time of the year, in winter.
The virus is highly contagious and can spread rapidly through childcare centres and hospital wards. It is often passed to older family members who usually have a milder infection.
Vaccines available by mouth
Parents will be pleased to hear that the new vaccines are taken by mouth, not by injection. They can be given in the first few months of life with the diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough shots.
The vaccines have been extensively tested and shown to be effective in protecting children against rotavirus infection. They are well tolerated and the risk of side-effects is low.
Ask your doctor for a script
Rotavirus vaccines are now available on a private prescription from your GP. The cost of the vaccine should be weighed against the cost of lost workdays for parents, medical care and hospitalisation. It may be rebatable from your health fund.
For further information visit www.kidsgastro.com.au or www.cyh.com.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.