- We conducted a 1-year prospective study in the Negev region of southern Israel to determine the epidemiologic and clinical patterns of rotavirus diarrhea. A total of 605 patients were studied, 392 Bedouins and 213 Jews, 441 of whom had diarrhea (449 episodes) and 164 did not. Rotavirus was the most common organism detected in children with diarrhea (63 of 444; 14%) but was rarely found in controls (3 of 163; 2%) (P less than 0.001). In 22% (12 of 54) of the rotavirus-positive patients, at least one other organism was also detected. The rate of rotavirus detection decreased as age increased, from 18% in the first year to 8% in the third year of life. Hospitalization with rotavirus diarrhea occurred more frequently in the summer. However, during winter, when diarrhea was less prevalent in the community, the proportion of cases associated with rotavirus was higher. Compared with controls, malnourished children were more likely to be hospitalized. However, rotavirus was detected in similar proportions among well-nourished and malnourished cases with diarrhea. The most prevalent rotavirus serotype was type 1 (in 69%), followed by types 4 and 2 (18 and 13%, respectively). We estimated that during the study period, approximately 2% of all Bedouin infants vs. only 0.2% of Jewish infants were hospitalized with rotavirus disease in their first year of life. Clinical signs and symptoms and stool appearance were not useful in predicting rotavirus detection. Malnutrition seems to be an important indicator of disease severity, which may explain why the toll of rotavirus-associated morbidity and mortality is particularly high among children in developing countries.