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Rotavirus Vaccine Could Save Millions of Children Worldwide
Date:1/27/2010

Trials in Africa, Mexico show shot protects from the common diarrhea-causing disease

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Vaccinating infants against rotavirus could save the lives of millions of children in developing nations who would otherwise die from the diarrhea-causing disease, two new studies show.

A study conducted in Malawi and South Africa found vaccinations reduced the rate of severe, life-threatening rotavirus in infants by more than 61 percent.

A second study found deaths from diarrheal disease in Mexico fell by more than 66 percent in children 11 months and younger during the 2009 rotavirus season compared to 2003-2006. In 2006-2007, Mexico's Ministry of Health and other major health providers made the rotavirus vaccine part of its national vaccination programs.

"A disease that may be a nuisance in the U.S. can be a killer in a poorer country," said Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, senior author of the African study and a senior advisor for immunization at PATH, an international non-profit organization that seeks to bring affordable health care to all. "Death from diarrheal disease in general is the second-leading cause of death among kids in developing nations."

The studies are published in the Jan. 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

More than half a million children die each year from rotavirus infection, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Nearly half of those deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Though there are many gastrointestinal diseases that can cause life-threatening diarrhea, rotavirus is among the most common. Among children hospitalized for severe diarrhea, rotavirus is the culprit in about 40 percent of cases globally, according to background information in the study.

Rotavirus is also common in the United States, with most children having a bout of it before 3 years of age, Neuzil said. But few American children die, largely becaus
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