July 15, 2022 – The potentially deadly parechovirus is now circulating in several states, causing fevers, seizuresand sepsis-similar symptoms, including confusion and extreme pain, According to the CDC.
Human parechoviruses are common in children, and most were infected before starting kindergarten, the CDC said. Between 6 months and 5 years, symptoms include upper respiratory tract infection, fever and eruption.
But infants younger than 3 months can have more serious, even fatal, infections. They can get”sepsis-such as sickness, convulsions and meningitis or meningoencephalitis, especially in infants less than one month old,” the CDC said. At least a newborn would have died of infection.
Parechovirus can be spread like other common germs, from feces ingested later – likely due to poor hand washing – and through droplets sent into the air by coughing or sneezing. It can be transmitted by people with or without symptoms of the infection.
The microbe can reproduce for 1 to 3 weeks in the upper respiratory tract and up to 6 months in the gastrointestinal tract, according to the CDC.
Kristina Angel Bryant, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, KY, says parechoviruses often cause rashes on the hands and feet, which some experts call “mittens and booties.”
The CDC urges doctors to test for parechovirus if they recognize these symptoms in infants if there is no other explanation for what might be bothering them.
There is no specific treatment for parechovirus. And with no standard testing system in place, experts don’t know if the number of parechovirus cases is higher in 2022 than in previous years.
The message for parents, says Bryant, is: don’t panic. “It’s not a new virus.”
“One of the most common symptoms is fever, and in some children that’s the only symptom,” she says. “Older infants and toddlers may only have cold symptoms, and some children have no symptoms.
Parents can take the usual steps to protect their child from viral illness, including hand washing and having less contact with sick people, says Bryant.