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All you need to know about deadly Rotavirus

Fourteen children have succumbed to rotavirus in Mombasa county since the outbreak was reported on April 11,2023.

Rotavirus is a highly infectious disease that can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting, leading to dehydration and, in severe cases, death, especially among young children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that over 200,000 deaths each year worldwide are attributed to Rotavirus. The virus is typically spread through fecal-oral contact and contaminated food and water.

Symptoms of Rotavirus infection usually appear one to three days after exposure to the virus and can last up to a week. They include watery diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and loss of appetite. Infants and young children are most at risk of severe infection, which can be life-threatening.

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The vaccine is given to children under five to prevent severe diarrhoea, vomiting, fever and abdominal pain. The vaccines are usually given to infants in two or three doses, beginning at six weeks of age.

Many countries now recommend Rotavirus vaccination as part of routine childhood immunization programs.

It is also essential to practice good hygiene to reduce the spread of the virus. Washing hands frequently, especially after changing diapers or using the bathroom, can help prevent transmission. Parents and caregivers should monitor children for symptoms of Rotavirus infection, especially during outbreaks.

If a person contracts Rotavirus infection, they require supportive care, including rehydration and electrolyte replacement, to prevent and manage dehydration. In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary.

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According to WHO, approximately 528,000 children die each year from Rotavirus-related illness, with most deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. In Kenya, for instance, nearly 4,500 children under five die each year from Rotavirus, with an estimated cost of nearly $11 million per year.

To curb the spread of the disease, the Rotavirus vaccine was introduced in the routine infant immunization program in Kenya in July 2014. However, the cost of introducing a new vaccine, including the vaccine, healthcare workers’ training, and cold-chain storage, has been a significant challenge for low- and middle-income countries.

To ensure that the vaccine is effective and affordable, the Global Alliance for Vaccine Immunization (GAVI) has been supporting its introduction in Kenya. The data from surveillance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Kenya, Mali, and Gambia are essential in measuring the real-world effectiveness of the vaccine and determining vaccine coverage and effectiveness.

Studies suggest that a routine two-dose vaccination series could prevent 2,467 deaths, 5,724 hospitalizations, and 852,589 clinic visits each year at a cost of $2.1 million.

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