Rotavirus is top cause of child gastroenteritis

A third of all cases of children seen by GPs for acute gastroenteritis are due to rotavirus, according to a European study published this week.

The REVEAL study assessed 2,846 children aged under five from around Europe, including the UK, who required medical care for acute gastroenteritis in primary care, emergency departments and hospital settings.

Overall, 41 per cent of children who took part in the study were rotavirus positive, and the virus accounted for between 28 and 52 per cent of cases of acute gastroenteritis in children under five who were seeking medical help.

Children who had rotavirus gastroenteritis were five and a half times more likely to suffer dehydration than those with rotavirus-negative gastroenteritis. They were also much more likely to require hospitalisation.

Berkshire GP and RCGP immunisation spokesman Dr George Kassianos said: ‘These results confirm how common rotavirus is as a cause of severe gastroenteritis in young children.

‘It accounts for about 150,000 GP consultations each year.’

Dr Kassianos said he hoped that vaccines against rotavirus, which are now available, would soon be incorporated into the routine childhood immunisation programme.

‘If we can prevent this, we should,’ he said.

The vaccine could easily be given at two, three and four months of age, as part of the current schedule, he added.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has proposed that subgroups be set up to examine rotavirus vaccines.

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