Rotavirus is the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) and the most frequent cause of severe diarrhoea in children aged less than 5 years. Although the epidemiology of rotavirus gastroenteritis (RVGE) is well documented, there are few data on the impact of RVGE on the families of affected children.
Data associated with the burden of RVGE, including number of working days lost, levels of parental stress, the need for alternative childcare arrangements and additional nappies used, were extracted from questionnaires completed by parents of children participating in a prospective, multicentre, observational study (Rotavirus gastroenteritis Epidemiology and Viral types in Europe Accounting for Losses in public health and society, REVEAL), conducted during 2004-2005 in selected areas of Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom to estimate the incidence of RVGE in children aged less than 5 years seeking medical care as a result of AGE.
1102 children with RVGE were included in the present analysis. The proportion of RVGE cases that required at least one parent or other person to be absent from work was 39%-91% in the hospital setting, 44%-64% in the emergency department, and 20%-64% in primary care. Self-reported levels of parental stress were generally high (mean stress levels, ≥ 5 on a 10-point visual analogue scale). Additional childcare arrangements were required in up to 21% of RVGE episodes. The mean number of nappies used per day during RVGE episodes was approximately double that used when the child was not ill.
Paediatric RVGE cases cause disruption to families and parental stress. The burden of RVGE on children and their families could be substantially reduced by routine rotavirus vaccination of infants.