Can Adults Get Rotavirus?

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Question: Can Adults Get Rotavirus?

A reader asks:

"My granddaughters were very ill with this virus last week -- one having to go to the hospital. I helped out for a few days but came down with the same symptoms this weekend. I am 66 years of age. I have had diarrhea for the last 34 hours. I've tried Kaopectate with no real results so far. Any ideas for me and is it possibly the same virus?"

Answer: According to the Food and Drug Administration, "Humans of all ages are susceptible to rotavirus infection." In fact, children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems are even more susceptible that the rest of the population.

In adults, they call this infection viral gastroenteritis.

It's difficult to control the spread of infection when you are dealing with sick children like you were with your granddaughters. It takes somewhere between 10 and 100 particles to infect a person. But those who are sick can secrete over 1000 virus particles in just one milliliter of fecal matter, according to the FDA. And with two children sick with prolific diarrhea, that's a lot of milliliters. Even with very diligent hand washing, the chances of contamination are everywhere -- in the laundry, on the toilet, in bed, in the tub, on the girls' skin. It's a hard battle to keep everyone healthy.

You say that Kaopectate hasn't worked, and this is a common problem. Stop taking it if it isn't working and focus instead on keeping yourself hydrated. Drink as much water as you can handle and any time you are ready, eat something. Start out with crackers or toast, since these are generally the least offensive foods.

Try to avoid anything with dairy, which can worsen your diarrhea. Also, some individuals find that they suffer from lactose intolerance for a time (from weeks to months) following severe diarrhea. Be aware of this so you can switch to a milk brand like Lactaid once you are well again.

You are on day three of this illness.

You could have about four to five more days until you are feeling better and the infection has run its course. Do call your health care provider if your fever increases or if you feel like you cannot keep down any water.

Call your health provider immediately or go to a Hospital Emergency Department if you can't reach anyone if you experience signs of serious dehydration such as:

  • very little or no urine
  • confusion
  • a weak or rapid heartbeat
  • very dry mouth
  • coolness in your arms and legs
  • difficulty breathing
  • difficulty walking or standing

Best of luck to you, and I hope you are feeling better very soon.

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