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Posted by on Dec 28, 2008 in Pediatrics

Top 10 Medical Stories of 2008: No. 4

Top 10 Medical Stories of 2008: No. 4


In the United States, a significantly milder rotavirus season coincided with increasing uptake of the rotavirus vaccine.

The onset of the most recent rotavirus season was delayed by 2-4 months, and its magnitude was reduced by more than 50%, when compared with the previous 15 seasons of viral activity in the United States. These surveillance data coincide with increasing administration of the rotavirus vaccine (RotaTeq; Merck) in infants, according to a June report in the MMWR. The live, oral vaccine was approved by the FDA in 2006, and its routine administration at 2, 4, and 6 months of age is recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

According to the CDC, mean coverage in the United States with 1 dose of rotavirus vaccine among 3-month-old infants increased from 49% in May 2007 to 56% in May 2008. In 13-month-old infants, mean coverage with 3 doses increased from 3.4% in May 2007 to 33.7% in May 2008.

Percentage of Positive Rotavirus Tests From NREVSS
(Data from 2008 are current through May 3)


In the United States, rotavirus historically causes up to 70,000 hospitalizations, 272,000 ED visits, and 410,000 office visits in each year. Worldwide, roughly 40% of hospitalizations for diarrhea in children younger than 5 years of age are caused by rotavirus, according to a November report in the MMWR. More than half a million young children die each year from rotavirus-induced diarrhea, and 85% of these deaths occur in low-income African or Asian countries.

Rotavirus vaccines (Rotarix; GSK Biologicals or RotaTeq) confer 85%-98% protection against rotavirus diarrhea. These vaccines have been incorporated into the routine immunization programs of an increasing number of countries, and trials in low-income Asian and African countries are ongoing. Notably these vaccines confer protection against rotavirus serotypes that are not included in their respective formulations. 

Transmission electron photomicrograph of intact rotavirus particles from the CDC.

bmartin (1127 Posts)

A native East Tennessean, Barbara Martin is a formerly practicing, board-certified neurologist who received her BS (psychology, summa cum laude) and MD from Duke University before completing her postgraduate training (internship, residency, fellowship) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has worked in academia, private practice, medical publishing, drug market research, and continuing medical education (CME). For the last 3 years, she has worked in a freelance capacity as a medical writer, analyst, and consultant. Follow Dr. Barbara Martin on and Twitter.