Rotavirus infection, the most common cause of diarrhea in infants and young children, can also cause seizures in some children. One Canadian study suggests 7 percent of children hospitalized with rotavirus had experienced seizures. Two vaccines now protect children from the devastating effects of rotavirus. Results from a recent study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases suggest that these vaccinations can reduce the risk of seizures.

Rotavirus can spread outside the gastrointestinal tract and affect other systems. This virus can cause seizures after it infects the nervous system.

Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other institutions analyzed nearly a quarter of a million children born in the United States between March 2006 and November 2009. These children were enrolled in the Vaccine Safety Datalink program, which collects information about vaccination safety. Of those enrolled in the program, 74.4 were fully vaccinated against rotavirus while 25.6 were not.

The research team found that the children who received the vaccine were 20 percent less likely to visit the emergency room or be hospitalized for seizures within the first year of vaccination as compared with children who did not receive the vaccine. The scientists speculate the vaccine stops the spread of the virus before it becomes widespread throughout the body.

Rotavirus can have devastating effects on its tiny victims. Each year, 453,000 infants die from rotavirus complications. Before rotavirus vaccinations become available in the United States, rotavirus infections would send 55,000 to 70,000 children under the age of five to the hospital each year. One major Canadian study suggests as many as 7 percent of children with rotavirus have seizures.

Vaccinating kids against rotavirus has already caused a decline in visits to doctor offices and emergency rooms, and has decreased the number of hospital admissions associated with rotavirus-related diarrhea. The authors of the study say that rotavirus vaccinations not only prevent serious vomiting and diarrhea associated with the virus, but that they might prevent approximately 1,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 emergency room visits for rotavirus-related seizures in young children. These trips to the doctor and emergency room are traumatic for the child as well as emotionally and financially taxing for the parents.

Source: Daniel C. Payne, James Baggs, et al. "Protective Association Between Rotavirus Vaccination and Childhood Seizures in the Year Following Vaccination in US Children." Clinical Infectious Diseases. Web. Retrieved 20 Nov 2013.