Melinda Gates: Saving children, stopping rotavirus

Today a lot of people (including us at ONE) are celebrating the big news– via The Lancet– that two sets of clinical trials in Asia and Africa showed that new rotavirus vaccines can significantly reduce child deaths. Among those celebrating: Melinda Gates.

You might recall last October, Melinda Gates talked a bit about rotavirus in the Gates’ “Impatient Optimists” presentation:

Today she took to the Foundation Blog to write a bit more about the disease:

Knowing that we have simple, cost-effective ways to prevent something that rarely kills children in the developed world breaks my heart.

Let’s face it – no one likes talking about diarrhea. But we should be doing just that because we have the opportunity to save 4,000 children’s lives every day by preventing diarrhea-related illnesses. We have the tools to combat diarrheal disease and the fatal dehydration it can cause – and it’s my goal to see them used in much higher numbers than they are today.

While deaths from diarrhea have decreased globally due to vaccines, antibiotics, oral rehydration therapy, and improved water and sanitation, diarrheal diseases remain the second-leading cause of childhood death. Each year, diarrhea causes more than 1.5 million deaths in children under 5—nearly all of whom live in low-income countries.

Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrheal disease in children worldwide and is responsible for the deaths of more than 500,000 children each year. The rotavirus vaccine, common in the US and other developed countries, has been introduced in a few developing countries, and we hope that it will soon be available in many more.