News & ExpertsNewsWhat Is Parechovirus? CDC Warns of Rising Infections Among Infants

What Is Parechovirus? CDC Warns of Rising Infections Among Infants

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently warned of an infection known as parechovirus that’s been circulating among infants. Also known as PeV, the virus can cause severe illness in very young children and babies, and is thought to be on the rise.

The agency says they have been receiving reports of PeV in “neonates and young infants” in multiple states since May, and has now been confirmed in multiple states.

For many people, the name PeV may be new, and you may be unaware of what symptoms to look out for, how the virus spreads, and what can be done to prevent infection. For those that may have heard of the virus, it’s still important to stay up to date on the latest information, as it can help you better protect yourself and your loved ones from infection.

So, let’s take a closer look at what PeV is, what causes it, and what symptoms you should be on the lookout for.

What Is Parechovirus?

Human PeV is a virus that is a member of the Picornaviriade family, which are common childhood pathogens associated with several clinical conditions. These range from milder to moderate illnesses, to more severe and even life-threatening conditions.

There are four main species of PeV, of which only one, known as PeV-A, is known to infect humans and cause disease. PeV-A has multiple types; however, PeV-A3 is most often associated with severe disease.

PeV isn’t a new disease and is fairly common in the United States. In fact, most children have been infected with the virus by the time they’ve started kindergarten. The reason the CDC has put out an advisory, however, is due to recent reports of children under three months of age catching the virus. This is cause for concern because when children this young contract PeV it can be especially dangerous.

Infection at this age can result in much more severe illness, like sepsis or neurological problems such as seizures, meningitis, or meningoencephalitis. These symptoms, in more severe cases, can even be life-threatening.

This is why, while PeV may be fairly common, new warnings such as this should be taken seriously. Learning about how the virus spreads, who’s at risk, and what you can do to prevent the spread are all vital to keeping your young ones safe. Next, let’s take a look at how the virus spreads.

How Is It Transmitted?

How Is It Transmitted?PeV typically spreads via one of three major routes: respiratory droplets, saliva, or fecal-oral means. While respiratory droplets and saliva are likely more common and expected methods of transmission, fecal-oral means are just as important to be aware of.

Fecal-oral transmission is a medical term that quite literally means fecal matter to mouth transmission. This may not seem like an obvious, or even possible, mode of transmission, but when we talk about children under three months of age it becomes much more of a risk. Because of this, it’s recommended that any infant, especially those who may be displaying symptoms of PeV, be kept clean and changed regularly to avoid possible fecal-oral transmission.

A more likely method of transmission is through respiratory droplets or saliva. Infants are constantly putting things into their mouths, which means you should take extra precautions by keeping the things they touch clean.

Should you notice your child displaying symptoms of PeV, it’s important to keep them away from other infants and bring them to their pediatrician.

Symptoms of Parechovirus

Parechovirus can cause a host of symptoms that range from mild to severe. Some people who get PeV experience mild diarrhea, fever, or cold and flu-like symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.

When infants become sick, especially those under three months of age, they can become unwell very quickly. In rare cases, PeV can cause sepsis, a severe blood infection, meningitis, or encephalitis, a severe infection of the membrane surrounding the brain.

Other, more common, symptoms of PeV you should look out for include:

  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Diarrhea
  • Drowsiness
  • Pain
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Seizures
  • A widespread rash

It’s important to note that for the most part, PeV cases, especially in children older than six months, will result in no more than a couple of days of fever, rash, and common respiratory symptoms like coughing or wheezing. However, if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, specifically more severe symptoms like difficulty breathing or seizures, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

What You Can Do to Prevent Parechovirus

What You Can Do to Prevent ParechovirusUnfortunately, there is currently no vaccine to prevent you or your child from getting PeV. With that said, as with many viral infections, practicing good hygiene is your best bet to prevent spreading or catching PeV. To do this, you can:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water (or hand sanitizer) often, especially after going to the toilet, before eating, after wiping noses, and after changing soiled diapers and clothes
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your upper arm (not hand) when coughing and sneezing
  • Don’t share eating utensils with people who are sick
  • Keep surfaces and objects such as countertops, toilets, and toys clean
  • Stay home if you have a cold, flu, or gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Stay away from small babies and young children if you have a cold, flu, or gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Always wash or sanitize your hands properly before touching or feeding your baby when you’re sick

Treating Parechovirus

Not only is there currently no vaccine against PeV, but there is also no specific treatment for it. However, if you are aware of and notice the symptoms of PeV, you can get your child to a healthcare provider sooner, which can greatly improve their chances of a speedy recovery without long-lasting health complications.

Treating PeV depends on the severity of the symptoms your child is facing. Fever in children under six months of age needs review by a doctor. If diarrhea is present, offer the child plenty of fluids. If there are any worrying symptoms or you remain concerned about anything, consult your doctor immediately.

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