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Rotavirus Vaccine Reduces Diarrhea

An oral vaccine for diarrhea reduced hospitalizations of children with rotavirus by 70 percent in Philadelphia, saved money and prevented infections among unvaccinated children, researchers reported.

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Three reports presented to a meeting of infectious disease specialists showed the benefits of the vaccine, which prevents the most common cause of severe diarrhea.

In one report, Irini Daskalaki of Drexel University College of Medicine reported that hospitals in North Philadelphia had seen a 70 percent drop in rotavirus-associated hospitalizations since rotavirus vaccinations began in 2006.

The number of babies aged 6 to 11 months admitted to the hospital with rotavirus plummeted by 94 percent, Daskalaki told a meeting of the American Society of Microbiology and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

“The extent of the decrease in cases … is unprecedented and greater than any variation in numbers previously observed, suggesting that the vaccine played an important role,” researchers wrote in a summary released before the presentation.

Merck and Co’s Rotateq was recommended in 2006 for routine immunization of U.S. infants, while GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s Rotarix, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in April. Both are considered equally safe.

Rotavirus is the leading cause of severe gastroenteritis, with vomiting and diarrhea, in infants and young children.

Before routine vaccination, the condition sent 410,000 children to a doctor every year, with more than 200,000 needing emergency care and 20 to 60 dying in the United States.

Globally, rotavirus kills 1,600 children under age 5 every day.

Doctors had been desperate for a vaccine to prevent the highly contagious infection. But the first one, sold by Wyeth, was pulled from the market in 1999 after it was linked to a rare, life-threatening type of bowel obstruction known as intussusception.

The new vaccines do not have that problem. A team at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston also found a 94 percent reduction in diarrheal disease after Rotateq was introduced.

Researchers at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, found only 62 children were admitted for rotavirus infection in 2008, compared with more than 300 a year in previous years, saving about $3 million a year in hospitalization costs.

A team at Quest Diagnostics, a company that tests lab samples, said it found evidence the vaccine lowered rotavirus infections in every state by between 18 and 87 percent.

“These data show a marked reduction in rotavirus disease in the U.S. after licensure of a live, oral rotavirus vaccine, although some states experienced greater declines than others,” they wrote in a summary.

“Evidence of herd immunity was also observed.” Herd immunity means even people who are not vaccinated are less likely to become infected because a disease is circulating less.

The Times Of India

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