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Rotavirus (Stool)

Does this test have other names?

Rotavirus test, Nucleic acid detection test, Isolation in cell culture

What is this test?

The rotavirus test is a stool test used to diagnose a rotavirus infection. Rotavirus affects the intestines and causes vomiting and diarrhea. This infection is especially common in young children, but it can affect adults, too. A rotavirus infection causes a condition called viral gastroenteritis.

A rotavirus vaccine is available for children, but it's possible to get infected even after vaccination. There are many different strains of rotavirus, and the vaccine doesn't protect against all of them. You can also get rotavirus more than once, even if you've had the vaccine.

Rotavirus passes easily from person to person, and can be picked up by touching a surface contaminated by someone with rotavirus. Sharing food or drink with an infected person can also spread it. Rotavirus can be dangerous, especially in children, because it can cause dehydration. Dehydration happens when the body doesn't have enough fluids, as can happen with frequent diarrhea and vomiting. Most people don't need treatment for rotavirus, but it's still important to diagnose the infection and watch for signs of dehydration. 

Why do I need this test?

You may need this test if you have symptoms of a rotavirus infection. Symptoms usually start about two days after coming into contact with the virus and include:

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Fever

  • Abdominal (belly) pain or cramping

  • Dehydration

  • Loss of appetite

What other tests might I have along with this test?

You may have other tests to diagnose rotavirus or check for dehydration, including urine tests and blood tests. 

What do my test results mean?

Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your health care provider.

The laboratory technician looks for the wheel-shaped rotavirus in the sample. If the test results show rotavirus in your stool sample, you have the infection. 

How is this test done?

It's best to do this test one to four days after symptoms start, but definitely within eight days of when you first notice symptoms.

You must collect a stool sample for this test. Your doctor will tell you how to collect a sample in a disposable specimen container with a lid. Do not collect stool from the toilet bowl or put toilet paper into the specimen container.

Give your sample to a health care provider or laboratory technician. At the lab, your stool sample will be tested for the rotavirus. 

Does this test pose any risks?

This test only involves having a normal bowel movement, so there are no risks from this test.

What might affect my test results?

Only having the rotavirus in your digestive tract can cause rotavirus in your stool. Medicines, diet, or lifestyle habits will not affect your results. Be careful not to contaminate the sample with urine or water from the toilet.

How do I get ready for this test?

You don't need to prepare for this test. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F. III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Last Review Date: 4/6/2012
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.