Rotavirus Clinical Presentation

Updated: May 04, 2018
  • Author: David D Nguyen, MD, FACEP; Chief Editor: Kirsten A Bechtel, MD  more...
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  • Often, a history of exposure to other children with diarrhea is reported.

  • Symptoms usually begin within 2 days of exposure and include the following:

    • Anorexia

    • Low-grade fever

    • Watery, bloodless diarrhea

    • Vomiting

    • Abdominal cramps

  • Stool output can be copious during the diarrheal phase of the illness, and dehydration is a common presenting complaint.



The physical examination findings for rotavirus infection are often unremarkable except for signs of dehydration.

  • The most common finding is hyperactive bowel sounds.

  • Rectal examination may stimulate the production of watery, heme-negative stools.

  • Tachycardia can be disproportionate to the temperature.

  • Sunken eyes and/or anterior fontanelle may be present.

  • Dry or sticky-appearing mucosa may be present.

  • Rough skin or diarrhea-induced diaper dermatitis may occur.

  • Depressed sensorium may be seen.

  • Significantly decreased urine output is an important sign. However, it may be hard to identify this in diapered infants because the massive watery stool output makes it difficult to determine the amount of urine output.

  • Weight loss can also occur.



The most significant risk factor for rotavirus infection appears to be participation in group daycare, presumably because the virus is spread through fecal-oral contact by the children themselves and by the daycare workers who are responsible for diapering. Also, fomites serve as important vectors for viral transmission.