01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Rotavirus in Africa 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Rotavirus in Africa

My youngest daughter (3) is just getting over rotavirus. It's such a nasty thing - diarrhoea and/or vomiting for anything from a week to 14 days. My older two had it at exactly the same time three years ago and were wiped out, in bed for ten days. Normally you expect vomiting to finish after 24 hours so rotavirus comes as a bit of a shock.

Fortunately my youngest has had a pretty mild dose of the illness and is back to eating a little after four days of refusing. Saying first,
'I don't want anything,' refusing even small spoonfuls of food to..
'please can I have a boiled egg' followed by, 'actually I don't want it now, I've changed my mind.'

She's looking pale, has lost weight and has very little energy - but is gradually getting better. When climbing the stairs she says,
'but I'm just so tired!'

A fellow mum from kindergarten who is looking after her friend's children for one week while her friend travels overseas, rang yesterday in desperation,
'I hear your daughter has rotavirus, I think one of my friends' children who is staying with me has it too. How contagious is it? I have four children under five years old in my house at the moment. What should I do?'
All I could say was;
'I am so sorry, what a nightmare for you! When is your friend coming back?'

I did a little research and it turns out that rotavirus is a huge killer in Africa and other developing countries due to dehydration.
'Rotavirus is the leading diarrhoea killer in the world, accounting for 600,000 diarrhoeal deaths annually - 80% of which are in developing countries'
In Kenya, they are nearing the end of trials on a rotavirus vaccine that can/hopefully will be given to all babies under 6 months.

For a mother, there's something enormously stressful about a child not eating (and of course continuing to be ill). It gets you right where it hurts because, for me, watching a child eat something that you have prepared somehow translates into how good a mother you are. I have a lot of first hand experience of this because my first child was an incredibly fussy eater. She is a lot better now - goodness knows how we cracked it and no longer skinny thank goodness, but then she is nearly 9.

Statistically, the biggest killer in Kenya is Road Traffic Accidents.

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