02 June 2011
Rotavirus infections are most common in children under two years of age. While children may be reinfected with rotavirus numerous times during childhood, it is the first infection that often results in severe disease and dehydration necessitating hospitalisation. Efforts to improve sanitation and access to clean water do not reduce the incidence of rotavirus disease and, therefore, vaccines were developed as the first line of prevention.
A monovalent rotavirus vaccine is available in the expanded program of immunization (EPI) to all infants in South African and is administered to children at their 6 and 14 week visits. The vaccine has been shown to be efficacious and safe, even in HIV-positive infants. The rotavirus season in Western Cape Province typically begins in February and peaks in April, and summer peaks may also occur in October and November. The rotavirus season in the rest of South Africa usually starts a month later (i.e.4 in March), and peaks in May to June.
The first rotavirus cases for the 2011 season in Gauteng Province have recently been detected. Preliminary analysis of the data from the rotavirus surveillance program has revealed that the introduction of the rotavirus vaccine in August 2009 has resulted in a substantial reduction in the numbers of rotavirus cases that require hospitalisation.
Source: Viral Gastroenteritis Unit, NICD-NHLS