Severe rotavirus diarrhea in children <5 years of age is a major public health problem; however, limited regional and country specific data on rotavirus disease burden are available from sub-Saharan Africa. In June 2006, the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa initiated rotavirus surveillance in selected African countries. With use of standardized methodology developed by the World Health Organization, children <5 years of age who were hospitalized with severe diarrhea were enrolled, and stool specimens were collected for detection of rotavirus strains with use of a commercial enzyme immunoassay. Rotavirus strains were further characterized for G and P types with use of a reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. From June 2006 through December 2008, rotavirus surveillance was established at 14 sites in 11 African countries. Of 5461 stool samples collected from children enrolled in 8 countries with 1 or 2 complete years of data, 2200 (40%) were positive for rotavirus. Ninety percent of all rotavirus hospitalizations occurred among children aged 3-12 months. Predominant types included G1P (21%), G2P (7%), and P  (29%); however, unusual types were also detected, including G8P (5%), G8P (1%), G12P (1%), and G12P (1%). A high percentage of mixed rotavirus infections was also detected. These preliminary results indicate that rotavirus is a major cause of severe diarrheal disease in African children.
- Africa South of the Sahara/epidemiology
- Child, Preschool
- Diarrhea, Infantile/epidemiology
- Population Surveillance
- Rotavirus Infections/epidemiology
- Time Factors