LONDON - Babies are to be vaccinated against a highly infectious bug that is one of the most common causes of diarrhoea in children. From September 2013, infants aged between two and four months will be immunised against rotavirus, which causes diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fever and dehydration. At present, almost every child will have had the viral infection by the age of five.

It is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in young children and babies. The UK Department of Health said the move will mean thousands of young children will be spared hospital stays and hundreds of thousands of GP visits. At present, the virus causes 140,000 diarrhoea cases a year in under-fives across the UK, and leads to around 14,000 hospital stays. Vaccination experts believe the immunisation programme will halve the number of vomiting and diarrhoea cases caused by rotavirus and there could be 70% fewer hospital stays as a result. Children will receive the vaccine, to be given orally as two separate doses of liquid drops, as part of their routine vaccination programme.