The number of confirmed rotavirus cases in the area is significantly down compared with the previous four years, showing that the vaccine is making a real difference.
Since July last year the routine childhood immunisation schedule in the Northern Trust area has included the rotavirus vaccine to help protect babies against the very common and potentially serious diarrhoea and vomiting bug.
Dr Richard Smithson, Consultant in Health Protection with the PHA, said on reviewing the provisional figures for the first four months of this year for laboratory-confirmed cases of rotavirus, there was a 75 per cent reduction compared with the average for the same period for the previous four years – 76 cases compared with an average of 281.
“The vaccine was only introduced on 1 July 2013 and this reduction has come sooner and is better than we had anticipated. Although we don’t have official uptake figures yet, we do know that it is in excess of 90 per cent,” he said.
Rotavirus is an infection of the lower gut which causes vomiting and diarrhoea in thousands of young babies every year. Most babies recover at home, but in some cases they can become dehydrated and may need hospital treatment.
In Northern Ireland this infection is responsible for around 4,000 GP visits and 400 hospitalisations every year in children under five years.
For further information on the rotavirus vaccine see the parents’ guide Immunisation for babies up to a year old available at www.bit.ly/babyimmunisations or you can ask your GP or health visitor.