Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Rotavirus mainly affects children between 6 months and 2 years old.

Rotavirus mainly affects children between 6 months and 2 years old.
beginning of content

Rotavirus

2-minute read

Rotavirus is a viral illness that causes diarrhoea and gastroenteritis. It mainly affects children between 6 months and 2 years old. Children are routinely vaccinated against rotavirus.

What causes rotavirus?

Rotavirus causes severe viral gastroenteritis. It is usually spread by contact with an infected person through:

  • person-to-person contact, particularly with someone who has not washed their hands
  • coming into contact with vomit or diarrhoea
  • being exposed to contaminated objects, food or water

Rotavirus spreads very easily because it can be passed on before symptoms appear and you begin to feel ill.

Rotavirus symptoms

Symptoms include:

Symptoms usually last from a few days to a week. People with rotavirus stay infectious for about two weeks.

Rotavirus treatment

Usually the illness will take its course without requiring treatment, but it's a good idea to;

  • get plenty of rest
  • drink plenty of water to replace fluids lost to diarrhoea and avoid dehydration (over-the-counter rehydration drinks can help)
  • avoid anti-diarrhoea medicines unless recommended by your doctor

Breastfed babies can continue feeding, but may need additional fluids. Children with vomiting or diarrhoea who are very unwell or under six months old should see a doctor. Children under two may need to go to hospital to treat dehydration.

Rotavirus prevention

The best way to prevent rotavirus in children is to have them vaccinated. The rotavirus vaccine is free under the National Immunisation Program Schedule. It is given at 6-8 weeks and again at 4 months of age, but is not given to older babies and children. There is a very small risk that babies may develop a bowel problem called intussusception after receiving the vaccine. For more information on the vaccine, visit Immunise Australia.

There are many ways to prevent the spread of rotavirus.

  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before handling food, after using the toilet or changing a nappy. Particular caution with handwashing should be taken after changing nappies in the 2 weeks after the rotavirus vaccine has been given, as the virus can be present in the babies stools, as it is a live vaccine.
  • Wash objects that have been exposed to rotavirus with hot water and soap then, allow them to dry.
  • If you've had diarrhoea, avoid entering a swimming pool for two weeks after symptoms disappear.
  • Keep children with rotavirus at home from childcare for at least 24 hours after diarrhoea stops.

Last reviewed: January 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Rotavirus

This fact sheet gives information about rotavirus which is the most common diarrhoeal illness in children

Read more on WA Health website

Rotavirus

Read more on Queensland Health website

Rotavirus | Australian Government Department of Health

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe vomiting and diarrhoea in infants and young children. Vaccination is the best protection against rotavirus.

Read more on Department of Health website

Rotavirus infection (viral gastroenteritis) information | myVMC

Rotavirus Infection is the most common cause of gastro. It causes diarrhoea, can be fatal and is a common cause of hospitalisation in Australian children.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Rotavirus in Australia

Rotavirus is a common cause of severe gastroenteritis in infants and young children, but may affect people of any age.

Read more on AIHW – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare website

Rotavirus infection fact sheet - Fact sheets

Globally, rotavirus is the most common cause of severe gastroenteritis in early childhood affecting almost all children under five years of age. A vaccine is now available for infants.

Read more on NSW Health website

Gastroenteritis (gastro, diarrhoea) in children video | myVMC

Gastroenteritis (gastro or stomach flu) from Rotavirus infection causes diarrhoea and dehydration in children. It can be prevented with vaccination.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Rotavirus vaccination and risk of intussusception | Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

Later updates

Read more on TGA – Therapeutic Goods Administration website

Rotavirus vaccination and the risk of intussusception | Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

The TGA, working in collaboration with state health authorities, has completed an investigation into the association between the use of t

Read more on TGA – Therapeutic Goods Administration website

RotaTeq Oral liquid - myDr.com.au

RotaTeq Oral liquid - Consumer Medicines Information leaflets of prescription and over-the-counter medicines

Read more on myDr – Consumer Medicine Information website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo