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Rotavirus is the most common cause of severe diarrhea in children worldwide, and a vaccine may soon be licensed and available for use in immunization programs. To assess the need for a rotavirus vaccine in Bangladesh, we estimated the disease burden of rotavirus diarrhea from national vital statistics for births and diarrheal deaths, together with hospital surveillance data on the proportion of severe childhood diarrhea attributed to rotavirus.From 1990 through 1993, hospital surveillance was conducted of a systematic, random 4% sample of >80 000 patients with diarrhea who sought care each year at the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B).Rotavirus was detected in 20% (1561 of 7709) of fecal specimens from children with diarrhea <5 years of age; 92% of all cases (1436) occurred in children <2 years of age, but only 3% (50) of cases occurred in infants <3 months of age. Children infected with rotavirus were more likely to have watery stools (P < 0.001), severe vomiting (P < 0.001) but less severe dehydration (P = 0.007) than children infected with other enteropathogens.We estimate that in this setting, where 18% of children die by age 5 and about 25% of these succumb to diarrhea, between 14 850 and 27 000 of the 3 million Bangladeshi children born in 1994 will die of rotavirus by the age of 5 years, equivalent to 1 rotavirus death per 111 to 203 children. The estimated burden of rotavirus diarrhea in Bangladesh is sufficiently great to warrant field testing of rotavirus vaccines for possible inclusion in the current immunization program.