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Saving Children, Stopping Rotavirus

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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.

At the Impatient Optimist event last fall, I talked about how immunization against this disease can save lives:

Immunizations against diseases like rotavirus are critical to improving the health of children around the world and are a key component to the foundation's emphasis on family health.

So, let's talk about diarrhea and together we can work to save children's lives through simple, cost-effective measures like the rotavirus vaccine.

Check out the group Defeat DD for information about ways to make your voice heard.

(Originally posted on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation blog)