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Paediatricians recommend gastroenteritis jab

SPECIALISTS FROM two of the main paediatric societies in Europe agreed at a congress held in northern Portugal this week that babies should be given a vaccine against rotavirus gastroenteritis.

The recommendation was announced at the 25th Congress of the European Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases (ESPID) supported by the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN). Rotavirus specialists from ESPID-ESPGHAN also presented recommendations for the treatment of rotavirus gastroenteritis in children in Europe.

Rotavirus

Rotavirus gastroenteritis is caused by the rotavirus, which is a virus that spreads easily between children. It is the most common cause of gastroenteritis (sickness and diarrhoea) in children. The majority of children are affected between the aged of six and 24 months of age and most will have been infected by rotavirus by the age of five.

“Rotavirus is the biggest cause of serious dehydration through vomiting and diarrhoea in children throughout the world,” said Professor Pierre Van Damme. “The vaccine is recognised as the only efficient control measure with significant impact on the prevalence of paediatric rotavirus gastroenteritis in children”.

Vaccine

In the EU, rotavirus gastroenteritis causes 700 children under five to go to the doctor while 87,000 are hospitalised and one child dies every week due to the illness. Studies show its prevalence is similar in all countries, independent of their level of development or environment factors.

ESPID and ESPGHAN specify that the first dose of the vaccine should be given between six and 12 months of age. The vaccine offers direct protection against five types of rotavirus responsible for over 98 per cent of serious paediatric gastroenteritis infections in Europe.

The vaccine was EC approved in June 2006 and is available in Portugal, Spain, Austria, Germany, Greece, Finland, and France, and is being launched in other countries. It is not available free under the state programme.