(NEXSTAR) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning that a virus that can cause serious illness or death in newborns is circulating in “multiple states” after it killed a baby boy in Connecticut.
Parechovirus, or PeV, is common in children — most children catch it by the time they’re in kindergarten, according to the CDC — but it can have serious consequences for infants under 3 months old.
In older children, between 6 months and 5 years old, the virus can cause an upper respiratory infection, fever and rash. But in very young infants, it can cause “septicemia-like illness, seizures, and meningitis,” according to the CDC. Babies under 1 month are the most vulnerable.
The virus can be spread by symptomatic and asymptomatic people, according to the CDC. There are two main modes of transmission of the parechovirus: the respiratory route (such as coughing or sneezing) and the fecal-oral route. The latter is a more common way for young children to spread viruses, as invisible bacteria or viruses from a child’s stool end up in someone else’s mouth.
Parechovirus is more common in summer and fall.
In the warning released last week, the CDC urges doctors and health care providers to test for parechovirus if an infant has an unexplained fever, sepsis-like syndrome, or neurological issues like seizures and meningitis.
“Since May 2022, the CDC has received reports from health care providers in multiple states of PeV infections in newborns and young infants,” the agency wrote. He did not say how many states or in which states the virus was found.
One state where the virus has been confirmed is Connecticut, where it claimed the life of Ronan DeLancy, 34 days. At 10 days, “his parents noticed he was fussy, seemed tired, stopped feeding and had a rash,” according to Hartford HealthCare, but his pediatrician said Ronan probably just had colic.
“Still worried, the DeLancys took Ronan to the hospital. His oxygen levels dropped rapidly and he started having seizures. An MRI showed brain damage and tests revealed he had parechovirus,” Hartford HealthCare wrote in a post warning of the dangers of the virus.
“Over the past five years, we’ve begun to realize that through mutations and more virulent subtypes, these viruses, particularly parechovirus, can be deadly,” said Andrew Wong, MD, a provider of primary care of the hospital group. While not fatal, it can lead to lifelong debilitations such as neuromuscular weakness and developmental delays. The CDC says these types of long-term neurological problems are rare.
“There is no specific treatment for PeV infection,” the CDC adds in its warning. “However, diagnosing PeV in infants could change management strategies and provide important insights into the health of families.”
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