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Is Rotavirus contagious?

Updated November 19, 2023


Rotavirus is very contagious. The virus is primarily spread through the fecal-oral route and can be transmitted through person to person contact or through contact with items that are contaminated with infected feces. Transmission of the virus through contaminated food or water is not frequently seen.  Anyone can become infected with rotavirus, but most cases occur in children ages three to 35 months old. Nearly all children will be infected by the age of five. 

The virus can be found in the stool up to 2 days prior to the onset of diarrhea and can still be present for up to ten days after the initial symptoms. Immunocompromised individuals may have the virus present in their stool for more than a month. 

According to the CDC, after one rotavirus infection, 38 percent of children will not have a second rotavirus infection, 77 percent will be protected against rotavirus diarrhea, and 87 percent will be protected against severe diarrhea. Any subsequent rotavirus infections will be less severe that the initial one. 

The virus can live for hours on hands and for days on hard surfaces. It is also very resistant to most disinfectants. In non-tropical climates such as the U.S., rotavirus infections occur more frequently during the fall and winter. Infections in tropical climates have a less seasonal pattern. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: NVIC encourages you to become fully informed about rotavirus and rotavirus vaccines by reading all sections in the Table of Contents, which contain many links and resources such as the manufacturer product information inserts, and to speak with one or more trusted health care professionals before making a vaccination decision for yourself or your child. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice.


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