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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
August 13, 2019

Reductions in Rotavirus Infections

JAMA. 2019;322(6):496. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.11314

Widespread use of the rotavirus vaccine has shortened the rotavirus season from 26 to 9 weeks and has drastically reduced the number of children testing positive for infections, according to a CDC report.

The authors analyzed data from the CDC’s National Respiratory and Enteric Viruses Surveillance System from 2000 to 2006 and 2007 to 2018, before and after the first rotavirus vaccine became available. They found that the median annual percentage of rotavirus positive tests declined from 25.6% during the prevaccine period to 6.1% during the postvaccine period. Additionally, the rotavirus season shrunk from a median of 26 weeks before the vaccine to just 9 weeks after, while the percentage of positive test results at the annual peak fell from a median of 43.1% to 14.0%.

Additionally, a new pattern has emerged in which there are alternating years of high and low rotavirus activity, the authors wrote. They suggest that this biennial pattern may be caused by the relatively low rotavirus vaccination rate of 70% in the United States, noting that countries with 90% to 95% rates experience no such swings in rotavirus activity.

“Rotavirus vaccination has resulted in a significant and sustained reduction of disease prevalence and has modified the seasonality of rotavirus disease in the United States,” the authors wrote. “To maximize the public health impact of rotavirus vaccination, efforts to improve coverage and on-time vaccination should continue.”

According to recent studies in the United States and Australia, the introduction of the vaccine was associated with substantial declines in the incidence of type 1 diabetes in children. Studies involving mice suggest infection with rotavirus may trigger type 1 diabetes in those genetically susceptible. However, more research is needed to determine whether the rotavirus vaccine may help prevent type 1 diabetes.