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Rotavirus Caused Death- Vaccine Urged for Children

The World Health Organization recommended that all children receive a vaccination against the rotavirus. Rotavirus is a leading cause of diarrhea which kills more than 500,000 children worldwide each year. The virus includes vomiting and diarrhea, in infants and young children, and is highly contagious. An estimated 1,600 children under the age of 5 are killed by this infection, every day, with more than 85 percent of the deaths occurring in Africa and Asia.

Dr. Paul, Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and co- inventor of one of the rotavirus vaccines manufactured by Merck & Company, said “by immunizing half the children in the United States the incidents of disease will be reduced by 80 to 90 percent”.

The first vaccine developed to fight rotavirus, sold by Wyeth, was pulled from the market in 1999 after it was linked to a life-threatening type of bowel obstruction, known as intussusception. According to Merck and Company their vaccine called Rotarix, does not have this problem. Merck and Company conducted a study of more than 63,000 infants. In that study, there were no increased risks of intussusception in those who received Rotarix compared to those who received placebo. The FDA has approved the vaccine and it is currently being used to immunize children. However, the FDA has requested that the manufacturer conduct post- marketing safety studies involving more than 40,000 infants to provide additional safety information.

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