Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Changing the Conversation about Rotavirus

February 10, 2014

While my Twitter description says I am a “social media newbie” I think it is about time I graduate myself to “social media high school.” I’ve figured out (and love) the ability to use Tweetdeck to follow the issues I am interested in. Given my work on vaccines against diarrheal diseases I follow both “#rotavirus” and “rotavirus” to see the latest news. Rotavirus is the primary cause of severe and fatal diarrhea in children under five. It is estimated that between 400,000 and 500,000 children die per year from rotavirus. That number still staggers me especially given death from diarrhea is so preventable.

 Rotavirus is the primary cause of severe and fatal diarrhea in children under five. So why is it that so many of the postings I see on rotavirus are about “Causes, signs and prevention of Rotavirus in Horses”?So why is it that so many of the postings I see on rotavirus are about “Causes, signs and prevention of Rotavirus in Horses”?  I finally clicked on a link and found that yes, baby horses appear to get rotavirus too. And apparently there is also a vaccine to help prevent the disease in baby horses.  

Still, I’d love to see the same amount of attention on rotavirus prevention in baby humans. Several organizations working on rotavirus have excellent websites including PATH, GAVI and WHO and masterfully use social media to get the word out. But we need more widespread attention to rotavirus because: 

  • One of every 260 children born each year will die of rotavirus by their fifth birthday. That’s more than 1,200 children each day.
  • More than one third of the 1.34 million diarrhea deaths in children under five years of age and 40 percent of the 9 million diarrhea-related hospitalizations worldwide are due to rotavirus disease.
  • Improvements in water quality, hygiene, and sanitation will not prevent the spread of rotavirus.
  • Rotavirus vaccines offer the best hope for preventing severe rotavirus disease and the deadly dehydrating diarrhea that it causes.
  • Two safe and effective rotavirus vaccines are saving lives today.
The GAVI Alliance supports rotavirus vaccine introduction for low-income countries that apply for support.  Country introduction, especially in areas of high burden, will have a large impact on the number of global deaths due to the disease. I hope there is a day soon when I see as many (if not more) Tweets about the reduction of rotavirus burden in children as I do in horses. No child, anywhere, should die from diarrhea. 

 
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