Environmental and behavioral risk factors for moderate or severe rotavirus diarrhea in children less than 24 months

Laura Freimanis-Hance, The University of Texas School of Public Health


On a global basis rotaviruses are the most important agents involved in childhood diarrhea. In developing countries they account for 6% of all diarrheas and 20% of all diarrhea related deaths of children under 5 years of age, with over 1 billion episodes and over 4 million deaths annually. Given the disease burden, there is a need for better understanding the risk factors involved in rotavirus disease, to identify areas of intervention. In order to provide this information, two areas were developed: a review of the literature, examining the causal evidence for rotavirus diarrhea and a case comparison study. The case comparison study analyzed two areas: identifying climate factors and, identifying environmental and behavioral risk factors. The literature review showed that few analytical studies have identified specific risk factors such as home environment, and a winter seasonal trend for temperate areas, but in key areas evidence is contradictory. The case comparison study for climate factors demonstrated that seasonality occurs in a tropical country like Venezuela and that a complex interplay between weather conditions contribute to the seasonal pattern. A positive association between rain fall (OR 4.1); dew point (OR 2.3) and temperature differential during the day (OR 1.4) and, an inverse association with temperature (OR 0.5) and relative humidity (OR 0.8) was found. This information is useful in understanding the seasonal pattern of rotavirus and for planning health care needs. The second analysis demonstrated that environmental variables such as crowding (OR 14.3), contact with someone with an infectious disease (OR 4.9) and animal ownership (OR 2.3) were important. Restricting the analysis to animal owners demonstrated that living In a rural settling (OR 13.8), defecating in inappropriate places (OR 7.2), crowding(4.2) and indoor animals (4.0) are of importance. Behavioral variables identified were: lack of breast feeding (OR 4.0) and visiting when someone was sick (OR 3.4). Biological and demographic variables of importance were: age, with a dose response relationship; undernurishment (OR 11.3) and household per capita monthly income less than US $ 16.30 (OR 8.5). Using a diarrhea compeer group we found that, although some of the previous variables were of importance, no major differences were found. These findings are important in identifying paths for prevention and further research.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Freimanis-Hance, Laura, "Environmental and behavioral risk factors for moderate or severe rotavirus diarrhea in children less than 24 months" (2000). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9981811.