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Cases of deadly parechovirus in infants are on the rise

Cases of deadly parechovirus in infants are on the riseBy Denise Mann Health Day Reporter

Parechovirus, a virus that can cause serious illness in infants, is on the rise in parts of the United States.

Twenty-nine infants were admitted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center Children’s Hospital in Nashville this year, including 23 admitted during a six-week period this spring, according to a new study. In contrast, only 19 cases were detected over five months in 2018.

For most children, parechovirus is mild, but it can be fatal in newborns. Symptoms can include fever, irritability, lack of appetite, seizures, and meningitis (a life-threatening inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord). This virus can also increase the risk of developmental problems later.

“Parechovirus is circulating in our population and we will miss it if hospitals do not use a test that looks for this virus,” said study author Romney Humphries. She is the director of laboratory medicine at Vanderbilt.

The exact reason doctors are seeing an increase in this virus is not fully understood. It usually peaks in summer and fall.

Parechovirus along with many other viral illnesses were relatively absent during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic due to widespread shelter-in-place orders. “It may just be due to more interactions, with kids going to daycare and kids going back to school,” Humphries said.

Of the 23 parechovirus cases in the study, 21 recovered without complications. The most common symptoms seen were fever, irritability and decreased appetite, the researchers found. A patient was to be examined for possible hearing loss. Another who suffered from persistent seizures was expected to experience severe developmental delay.

There is no specific treatment for this virus, and most infants do well with supportive care such as staying hydrated and taking steps to reduce any fever, Humphries said.

This slight increase in parechovirus is no reason for parents to press the panic button, she noted.

“This is a typical childhood infection and parents shouldn’t be concerned, but if their newborn has a fever, restlessness or won’t eat, they should see their doctor.” , Humphries said.

The new report appears in the July 29 issue of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Infectious disease experts not involved in the new study also urge caution, not panic.

“This virus is still circulating, and we’re seeing new cases every week and seeing a higher number of these cases than usual,” said Dr. Cristina Tomatis Souverbielle, infectious disease specialist at Ohio’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital. in Columbus.

Rates should start falling in September or October, Tomatis Souverbielle said.

The good news is that parechovirus usually causes mild symptoms. However, “anyone younger than 3 months who has a fever should be seen by a provider,” she said.

The virus spreads through sneezes and coughs and through saliva and stool, Tomatis Souverbielle said.

Prevention can help keep the virus at bay. This includes washing your hands often, especially when changing diapers, and wearing a mask around a newborn if you’re not feeling well.

“Parechovirus has been around for many years and we see flare-ups every two years,” said Dr. Roberta DeBiasi. She is Chief of Pediatric Diseases at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.

To diagnose the virus, doctors order a lumbar puncture which tests a sample of cerebrospinal fluid for a host of conditions.

“Parechovirus is now included in this panel, but that wasn’t five years ago, which could also explain the uptick,” DeBiasi said.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more on parechovirus.

SOURCES: Romney Humphries, PhD, director, division of laboratory medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville; Cristina Tomatis Souverbielle, MD, infectious disease specialist, Children’s National Hospital, Columbus, Ohio; Roberta DeBiasi, MD, chief, division of pediatric diseases, Children’s National Hospital, Washington, DC; Morbidity and Mortality Weekly ReportJuly 29, 2022

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