Local doctors help develop rotavirus vaccine

By Lori Lyle
WAVE 3 Medical Repoter

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) -- The rotavirus is responsible for hospitalizing about 70,000 infants everyyear. The disease causes diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to life-threatening dehydration. Now a new vaccine is helping to clear the ERs, and it's thanks in part to doctors right here in Louisville. WAVE 3 Medical Reporter Lori Lyle has the details.

The first rotavirus vaccine that hit the market in 1998 had to be pulled a short time later because of a rare but serious side effect.

This new vaccine is made in a completely different way. Over 70,000 children were tested in the clinical trials, including 400 from Louisville.

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Six-month-old Delton Bowman is heading into his first cold and flu season and he'll be armed with new disease fighting protection. The rotavirus vaccine is now part of the arsenal for the tiniest of patients.

"Every child in this country gets rotavirus infection, and most are symptomatic."

The virus causes fever, diarrhea, and vomiting -- sometimes to the point of dangerous dehydration.

Delton's recently got his third dose of the rotavirus vaccine, which is given by mouth, and is now available for babies up to 32 weeks.

UofL Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases Dr. Gary Marshall helped research the vaccine and says more babies getting the vaccine will cut down on the number who end up in the emergency room this winter.

Rotavirus is responsible for about 70,000 hospital visits a year in the U.S., and   says "this vaccine is about 96 percent effective in preventing hospitalization from rotavirus, 94 percent in preventing emergency department visitis."

Kids can become re-infected with rotavirus several times throughout childhood, but it's the first infection that typically makes them the sickest.

"If every child gets this vaccine as is recommended has potential to eliminate the vast majority of admission to hospitals for infants with these symptoms."

The virus can spread rapidly-- so if your newborn is in daycare or has an older sibling-- experts say they're especially at risk.

And the study for this vaccine was one of the largest clinical trials ever conducted.