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What is parechovirus?

The information parents of young children need to know.

Article Author: Juice Staff

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A virus that can cause severe illness in newborns and infants is circulating in multiple states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

On July 12, 2022, the CDC told physicians and public health officials to be on the lookout for parechovirus. Health care providers have been reporting cases of the virus’ A3 subtype to the CDC since May. This variation is associated with more severe illness in newborns and infants, including seizures and meningitis.

Though the CDC alert provides important information for doctors, it doesn’t signal a disease outbreak, said Mobeen Rathore, MD, chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Immunology for Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

“I wouldn't say the CDC is worried about it. Viruses like the parechovirus are cyclical, which means they recur annually, biannually or seasonally,” Dr. Rathore said. “The alert just means they’re seeing an increased number of cases this year.”

Still, the news may raise questions for parents who want to keep their children safe. Here are Dr. Rathore’s answers.

What are the symptoms of parechovirus?

Parechovirus is closely related to a group of viruses known as enteroviruses, which usually occur in the summer and fall and are a common cause of cold-like infections in children. The vast majority of children who get parechovirus will show no symptoms and be just fine. A few will get a fever, diarrhea or other cold- or flu-like symptoms. Most children recover from mild parechovirus infections after a few days.

Who is most at risk?

Rarely – usually in newborns and infants under 6 months – parechovirus can cause more severe illness and seizures. The virus can lead to meningitis, which is an inflammation of the lining that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord. Or it can cause encephalitis, which is an infection of the brain tissue.

See your doctor if your child is crying constantly, has a high fever, is vomiting or is drowsy or difficult to wake from sleep. For severe symptoms, like seizures or loss of consciousness, take your child to the nearest Children's Emergency Center.

Why did the CDC issue an alert?

The message lets health care providers know hospitals are seeing a bit more of this infection than usual. Then, doctors can look for parechovirus as one of the possible causes for children who contract meningitis or encephalitis.

How is parechovirus diagnosed and treated?

Health care providers are able to check for parechovirus by testing a multitude of different specimens. But, there’s no cure or special treatment besides supportive care to relieve symptoms. There is no preventive vaccine for parechovirus.

What can parents do to keep their children from getting sick?

Just like how they would protect their children from other viruses, parents can practice good hygiene and teach their kids to do the same. Be sure to wash hands often with hot soap and water and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. It’s also a good idea to regularly sanitize objects and surfaces at home.

If your newborn or infant is experiencing cold- or flu-like symptoms, call your pediatrician. For symptoms that require immediate care, take him or her to the nearest Children’s Emergency Center or call 911.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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