Hundreds of children, mostly under the age of five, have flooded Haifa's three hospitals in recent weeks after being infected by an outbreak of the highly infectious "rotavirus" stomach virus, reports the Hebrew weekly Yediot Haifa. All three of the city's hospitals have reported being swamped by young children suffering from fevers, vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration, and parents have complained that they are having to wait for hours before being seen by a doctor.
According to the report, rotavirus is the most common cause of hospitalization for young children as it causes severe vomiting and diarrhea, often accompanied by a low fever, and quickly leads to dehydration. The virus is highly infectious and can survive for long periods on inanimate surfaces such as toys or chairs, and so is easily transmitted, with young children being especially vulnerable. Although the immune system usually manages to fight the virus off after seven to 10 days, during the period of vomiting and diarrhea many children need intravenous fluids to stave off dangerously severe dehydration.
Many parents at the Haifa hospitals expressed frustration with the long waiting times and crowds in the emergency rooms, and said they should have been warned that there was a rotavirus outbreak in the city, as even if their children were ill with another disease, they were likely to pick up the virus from others in the hospital.
A senior doctor said the hundreds of people flooding the hospitals every day had resulted in doctors being able to spend less time with each patient and in crowded and noisy waiting areas where patients were likely to catch diseases from other patients.
Doctors said the most important thing parents of a sick child should do was keep an eye on the child's fluid loss. A vaccination against the virus was recently approved by the Health Ministry
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