Rotavirus is a gastrointestinal infection with an incubation period of about 2 days. Therefore, a person may experience symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea, around 2 days after exposure to the virus.

Rotavirus is a highly contagious virus that is a common cause of viral gastroenteritis. There is currently no direct treatment for the virus, but doctors may recommend steps to treat symptoms. These measures include drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.

A person can also take several steps to help prevent the spread of the virus, such as keeping their hands clean and sanitizing objects. Additionally, it is advisable to receive the vaccine for the virus.

This article reviews the incubation period of rotavirus and its symptoms, treatments, and prevention.

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Rotavirus takes about 2 days to incubate. Once it develops, it can cause diarrhea and other symptoms for around 3–8 days.

People who acquire the infection will shed the virus, which is how it spreads to others. A person can transmit the virus before symptoms occur, but they shed the most for the first 3 days following the end of symptoms. However, people with compromised immune systems can keep shedding the virus for up to 30 days.

A person can contract the virus even if they have had previous infections from the virus, so they should continue to take precautions around friends, family members, or coworkers with the infection.

The rotavirus primarily causes vomiting and watery diarrhea. Symptoms often start within 2 days and can typically last between 3 and 8 days.

Loss of liquid and an inability to consume food or drinks can lead to dehydration. This rapid loss of fluids can be serious for infants and small children. If a person becomes dehydrated, they may develop symptoms such as:

  • dry mouth or throat
  • decreased urination
  • dizziness when standing
  • crying with no or few tears
  • fussiness
  • unusual sleepiness

A person can acquire rotavirus through the fecal-oral route. In other words, a person may put hands, fingers, or objects carrying the infection into their mouth.

Common routes of transmission include:

  • placing unwashed fingers or hands carrying fecal matter into their mouth
  • eating contaminated food
  • touching a contaminated object and then placing fingers or hands in the mouth

Rotavirus typically spreads easily in young children and babies who are unable or less capable of keeping their hands clean without assistance. However, parents and caregivers can also acquire rotavirus if they do not take the proper precautions around people who are sick.

Rotavirus is a viral infection. At present, there is no standard course of treatment. Doctors will often recommend treating symptoms, such as diarrhea or vomiting, and taking steps to manage dehydration.

Drinking plenty of fluids can help prevent dehydration. Rehydration fluids are available for mildly dehydrated people, but a person with severe dehydration may need hospitalization to replace fluids.

Young children, those with preexisting conditions, and older adults are most at risk of severe dehydration. Parents and caregivers should keep an eye out for signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, decreased urination, or unusual fussiness in young children.

A person can take steps to help prevent contracting or spreading rotavirus. Someone with an active or recent infection should stay home and limit contact with others. They may also want to clean and sanitize hard surfaces around their home or other areas to help prevent spreading it to others.

To help prevent infections, a person can:

  • limit contact with people who are sick
  • wash hands frequently
  • wash young children’s hands frequently
  • sanitize surfaces in the house, including door knobs, toilets, and changing tables
  • receive vaccinations against the rotavirus

Currently, two vaccinations are available for infants in the United States. Doctors can give RotaTeq to babies at 2, 4, and 6 months of age. Alternatively, they can provide Rotarix to babies at 2 and 4 months of age.

In either case, about 9 out of 10 vaccinated children gain protection from severe illness. Additionally, about 7 out of 10 gain protection from any severity of infection.

However, it is important to note that the vaccine may be unsuitable for all individuals. Evidence suggests the following people should not get the rotavirus vaccine:

  • those with a previous severe reaction to the rotavirus
  • those allergic to any ingredients in the vaccine
  • those with a combined immunodeficiency condition
  • those with HIV, AIDS, or cancer
  • those taking medications that can weaken the immune system
  • those with intussusception, a common cause of blockage in the intestine in young children

The incubation period for rotavirus is typically 2 days. A person usually has an active infection with symptoms for about 3–8 days. People will generally shed the virus for a few days, but those with weakened immune systems can shed the virus for up to about 30 days.

Rotavirus primarily causes watery diarrhea and vomiting. It can also lead to dehydration. Treatment often focuses on controlling symptoms and helping prevent severe dehydration. A person can take several steps to prevent its spread, including washing hands frequently, washing surfaces, avoiding those who are sick, and getting young children vaccinated.