The island nation in the central tropical Pacific Ocean has reported a rotavirus outbreak that has affected some 500, mostly young children, and killed two, according to a Radio New Zealand report Thursday.

Kiribati /CIA
Kiribati /CIA

Dr Teatoa Tira says eighty per cent of the cases are children under five years old and he says the two children who died were also suffering from malnutrition.

Health officials suspect ground water contamination from heavy rains and advise the public to boil their water.

The Independent and Sovereign Republic of Kiribati  is composed of 32 atolls and one raised coral island,Banaba, dispersed over 3.5 million square kilometers.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rotavirus disease is most common in infants and young children, but adults and older children can also become infected with rotavirus. It is responsible for the death of over 600,000 children annually worldwide. Once a person has been exposed to rotavirus, it takes about 2 days for symptoms to appear.

Rotavirus is shed (passed from a person’s body into the environment) in feces (stool) of infected persons. The virus spreads by the fecal-oral route; this means that the virus must be shed by an infected person and then enter a susceptible person’s mouth to cause infection.

Rotavirus vaccination is the best way to protect children against rotavirus disease. The vaccines are very effective at preventing severe rotavirus disease in infants and young children. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page