Viral infections of the lower alimentary system represent a major illness burden on all age groups. Both the intestine and accessory organs such as the liver can be affected. At least five different groups of viruses can cause epidemic gastroenteritis, resulting in millions of cases each year in the United States. More than six different viruses can cause hepatitis, meaning inflammation of the liver. Hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV) account for most cases of viral hepatitis.
Rotaviruses cause most cases of viral gastroenteritis in infants and children. In the United States, they cause an estimated 2.7 million cases each year in individuals less than five years old, resulting in 500,000 emergency department or clinic visits, and 49,000 hospital admissions. Worldwide, more than 600,000 deaths are attributed to rotaviruses each year.
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