The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a health alert last month that a common pediatric virus called parechovirus (PeV), which may cause serious illness in newborns under 3 months, is spreading throughout the country.
In Tennessee, 23 infants between 5 days and 3 months old contracted the illness between April 12 and May 24 this year. Of those patients, 13 were female and 10 were male.
Sixteen of the children had older siblings or were around children, one became symptomatic while in the neonatal intensive care unit, one went to a child care center, and five were preterm.
Fever, fussiness, poor feeding, unusual drowsiness, seizures, and congestion were among the symptoms.
Human parechoviruses, members of the Picornaviridae family, are common viruses that can cause illnesses ranging in severity from asymptomatic manifestations or minor symptoms to life-threatening infections.
“Children were back in day care, back in school, going to camp,” stated Dr. Ritu Banerjee, an author of the new report and a professor of pediatric infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville. “Now the virus could circulate among many more vulnerable hosts.”
The virus can be transmitted through the fecal-oral route, which involves feces that end up in the mouth, and through respiratory droplets.
Shedding from the upper respiratory tract can continue for up to three months and from the gastrointestinal system for up to six months, according to the CDC. The duration of the incubation period is unknown.
The CDC warns clinicians that PeVs are more common in the summer and fall.
Between 2019 and 2021, seven PeV cases were discovered. Due to social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was likely no biennial peak in 2020, indicating that PeV transmission strongly correlates with social activities.
The PeV infection does not have a specific treatment, but a diagnosis of PeV in infants may improve care techniques and offer valuable health information for patients.