OBJECTIVE. A new rotavirus vaccine may be licensed in the United States in early 2006. Estimates of the burden of severe rotavirus disease, particularly hospitalizations, will help evaluate the potential benefits of a national rotavirus immunization program.

DESIGN. The Kids' Inpatient Database, a robust sample of 10% of the uncomplicated births and 80% of other pediatric discharges was used to estimate the number and rate of diarrhea- and rotavirus-associated hospitalizations among US children <5 years of age in 1997 and 2000.

RESULTS. In 1997 and 2000, diarrhea was coded in 13% of all childhood hospitalizations, for an estimated cumulative incidence of 1 diarrhea hospitalization per 23 to 27 children by age 5. Most diarrhea-associated hospitalizations (62%) were coded as unspecified etiology, and 35% as viral. Rotavirus was the most common pathogen recorded for 18% and 19% of diarrhea-associated hospitalizations in 1997 and 2000, respectively. Diarrhea-associated hospitalizations coded as unspecified or viral exhibited a marked winter peak similar to that of hospitalizations coded as rotavirus, suggesting that the rotavirus-specific code captures a fraction of all rotavirus hospitalizations. Using indirect methods, we estimated that rotavirus was associated with 51142–60155 and 46839–56820 hospitalizations in 1997 and 2000, respectively. By these estimates, rotavirus is associated with 4% to 5% of all childhood hospitalizations, and 1 in 67 to 1 in 85 children will be hospitalized with rotavirus by 5 years of age.

CONCLUSIONS. Diarrhea is an important cause of hospitalization in US children, and rotavirus is the most important etiology. Disease burden estimates have remained stable during the past decade. An effective rotavirus vaccine will likely reduce substantially the burden of severe rotavirus disease, estimated to account for 4% to 5% of all hospitalizations and ∼30% of hospitalizations for watery diarrhea among children <5 years of age.

You do not currently have access to this content.