You may have heard of diarrhea outbreaks on cruise ships that cut short the cruise. Rotavirus is usually the culprit. It causes severe diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Cruise travelers are certainly inconvenienced and end up having a nightmare instead of the dream vacation they planned on.
Rotoavirus is not just for cruise ships. It is responsible for killing more than 500,000 children each year, 80% of whom live in developing countries.
The only treatment consists of preventing dehydration by providing fluids and salts until the disease runs its course. In the most serious cases, frequent vomiting makes oral rehydration ineffective. Children who cannot keep down fluids urgently need intravenous fluids, or they risk dying from dehydration. In many poor, developing countries, it's difficult to find the clean water needed to make the rehydration solution.
The other option to rehydration is to prevent the disease in the first place. The World Health Organization says that every child should be vaccinated against diarrheal disease. The cost ($20 per person) and the fact the vaccine must be kept refrigerated are barriers to preventing this deadly disease.
For more information, see the Rotavirus Vaccine Program.