Everybody must surely be familiar with the symptoms of gastroenteritis - sickness, diarrhoea, headaches and fever. The cause of this gastroenteritis may be bacterial (e.g. Salmonella) or viral. The major cause of the viral form is the human rotavirus , which, together with the Norwalk virus, is responsible for the majority of reported cases. The rotavirus has a segmented, dsRNA genome, and is a non-enveloped virus.
The virus damages the villi in the upper part of the intestinal tract, affecting normal ion transport, and resulting in the characteristic water loss. Transmission of gastroenteritis is via the faecal-oral route, that is, by the ingestion of faecally contaminated food or water. Poor hygiene practice or contaminated water supplies are usually to blame for the perpetuation of the cycle. Normally, the condition is self-limiting, lasting only a couple of days; the normal treatment is fluid replacement therapy. In areas where clean water supplies are not available, however, the outcome can be much more serious. In the Third World, the condition is a major killer; it is the principal cause of infant mortality, and the cause of some five to ten million deaths per year.
rota = 'a wheel',describ-ing the distinctive appearance of this type of virus.
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