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May 1978

Fatal Rotavirus Gastroenteritis: An Analysis of 21 Cases

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Virology (Drs Carlson, Middleton, Szymanski, and Petric) and Pathology (Dr Huber), The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto.

Am J Dis Child. 1978;132(5):477-479. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1978.02120300037006

• During the period of May 1972 to March 1977, twenty-one fatal cases of rotavirus acute gastroenteritis were recorded in the city of Toronto. The mean age of these subjects was approximately 1 year. Boys outnumbered girls by 12 to 9. Death occurred within three days of onset of symptoms in all cases. Sixteen of the subjects were profoundly dehydrated and had sodium levels (serum or vitreous humor) in excess of 150 mEq/liter. In 11 subjects, sodium values were greater than 160 mEq/liter. Although a physician was contacted in 16 instances, these infants still perished. We suggest that both language difficulties and the rapid rate of fluid depletion contributed significantly to the fatal outcome. At autopsy the bowel was often dilated and filled with fluid. Postmortem autolysis precluded an accurate histological assessment of the small bowel mucosa.

(Am J Dis Child 132:477-479, 1978)