7/19/22 blog post
what is parechovirus and how can I protect my child?
in this article:
You may have seen coverage of parechovirus in the news or on your social media feed recently. While it's a common virus, the Centers for Disease Control recently issued a health alert notifying healthcare providers that the virus has been circulating nationally since May.
Parechoviruses are a group of relatively common viruses that can cause infections of varying severity in children. Some types of parechoviruses may circulate year-round, while others typically circulate during the late spring through mid-autumn months. Parechoviruses are spread by respiratory droplets (such as by sneezing or coughing from an infected person) and by the fecal-oral route.
Infections in older infants, toddlers, and school-age children are generally either mild or asymptomatic. When symptoms are present, they can include:
- Runny nose
- Stuffy nose
By contrast, infants less than three months are at highest risk for developing severe disease. Parechovirus type A3 (PeV-A3) can cause meningitis and seizures in young infants, and symptoms of severe PeV-A3 infection in this age group may include:
- High-spiking fevers
- Irritability (very fussy)
- Lethargy (acting very tired)
- Significantly decreased interest in feeding
Another sign of PeV-A3 infection in young infants is a rash over areas such as the face, belly, chest, hands, and feet. The rash may look bright red like a sunburn, though it can also have a pinpoint appearance.
Risk factors for parechovirus infections in infants include exposure to family members or close contact with symptoms of a respiratory or diarrheal illness. One study of infants with severe PeV-A3 infection found that nearly half had an ill sibling under 11 years-old at the time the infants became sick. However, people who have had respiratory infections with parechovirus may continue to shed the virus in their respiratory droplets and be able to infect others for up to a few weeks even after symptoms have resolved. Those who have had diarrheal illness caused by parechovirus may continue to shed the virus in their stool for periods of time ranging from a couple of weeks to six months. Asymptomatic adults with parechovirus infections can also transmit the virus to others.
Since there are no vaccines or antiviral treatments available to prevent or treat parechovirus infections, one of the best ways for preventing these infections in newborns is by limiting their exposure to people as much as reasonably possible during the first few months of life. Newborns should especially avoid those who are experiencing or who have recently experienced respiratory or gastrointestinal illness symptoms. Anyone having regular contact with a newborn infant should be practicing good hand hygiene, which should include washing their hands before holding the infant and after changing diapers. A little bit of prevention can go a long way toward keeping newborns healthy!