Health Experts Urge Countries to Prevent Child Deaths from Rotavirus

ISTANBUL, Turkey – More than 350 of the world's leading scientific experts, policymakers and leading public health professionals from 67 countries convened today during the 8th International Rotavirus Symposium in Istanbul, Turkey, to present new data about rotavirus -- a disease which causes acute diarrhea and often leads to death among young children.

"Regardless of where they live, virtually all children become infected with rotavirus by the age of 3, yet 90 percent of child deaths due to rotavirus occur in the world's poorest countries," said Dr. Ciro de Quadros, of the Sabin Vaccine Institute.

Roger Glass, of the FogartyInternationalCenter, added, "Every country affected by this disease should be using these new insights to have vigorous discussions about the best ways to prevent this potential killer."

The following data was presented at the Symposium June 3-4:

--  Rotavirus is responsible for an estimated 527,000 deaths each year among children under 5 years of age.

--  Six countries in Africa and Asia account for 50 percent of all deaths. Those countries are India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, China and Pakistan.

--  Rotavirus is responsible for 2 million hospitalizations per year worldwide.

--  Thirty-five percent to 60 percent of diarrhea hospitalizations in children under 5 worldwide are due to rotavirus.

"Progress is important because this disease strains the health systems of countries already burdened with limited resources," said Umesh Parashar, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Surveillance data is being collected in more than 50 countries. Findings from many of these countries could be available within the next two years.

"Despite the persistent strife among countries which we hear about almost daily -- scientific, policy and public health leaders from 67 countries have come together in common cause to prevent the deaths of millions of children," said Cristiana Toscano, of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Source: Sabin Vaccine Institute