CDC Issues Parechovirus Alert, Here’s How PeV Can Be Dangerous To Infants

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Although there may be an “echo” in this virus’s name, you may not have heard it before. This is what you should do. On July 12, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a health advisory. about the parechovirus (PeV) circulating in the U.S., your reaction may have been “par” what? Par for the course? Partay? No, parechovirus.

It’s a virus that commonly causes fever, rash, and upper respiratory tract symptoms when infecting kids from six months to five years of age. Most kids have been infected with virus by the time they’ve started kindergarten.

The reason for the health advisory? There have been several reports in recent months that children under three months old have been infected. It can also be called the par-uhh-oh virus when people this young get infected. Sepsis-like illness and neurological problems like seizures, meningitis, or meningoencephalitis can all be caused by infection. These conditions can quickly become life-threatening. Yes, it’s important to take PeV seriously, especially when someone less than one month old is infected as it can suddenly, unexpectedly, and tragically claim an infant’s life.

This News 12 ConnecticutHartford HealthCare has posted a segment that shows an example of such tragedy.

That’s why the health advisory is telling health care professionals to think about and test for PeV should an infant have sepsis-like or neurological symptoms. You can’t diagnose someone with a PeV infection just by looking at him or her. Someone doesn’t necessarily look parechovirusy. Instead, finding evidence of the virus in some type of body fluid, whether it’s cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), blood, poop, or respiratory secretions is usually necessary to confirm the diagnosis. There are four types of PeVs. Picornaviridae family. Only one of these four types has been shown to cause severe illness in humans.

There is currently no vaccine or treatment for the PeV. But if parents and health professionals are more aware of PeV, they may be better prepared to manage the possible complications such as sepsis and meningitis and thus improve the infant’s chances of survival and not having lasting problems.

Typically, the virus spreads through one of three routes: via nasal droplets, saliva, or via fecal oral means. Fecal-oral, a medical term that means “poop-to mouth”, is a fancy way to say poop. If your infant has the virus, it is important to keep them away from other babies. After all, infants tend to offer things that aren’t the best of gifts, namely poop, saliva, and respiratory secretions. Also, you should be cautious with your infant’s skin and clean it up immediately. Handling an infant requires you to use gloves and a dress. You should wash your hands whenever you touch the infant. This means that you should use soap and water for at most 20 seconds. That is a bit less than what it takes to reach the first chorus of the song YMCA.

Keep in mind that while not everyone infected will display symptoms, someone doesn’t need to have symptoms to spread the virus. The virus can be shed for as long as six months after an infected person has been diagnosed. It can stay on the upper respiratory tract for about one to three weeks and then spread to the gastrointestinal tract for approximately six months. So if your two-year-old friend calls you and tells you that he’s just recovered from a parechovirus infection after a few days of symptoms and wants to go out partying with you, you may want to hold off for a while. Tell him that a two-year-old shouldn’t be partying. Tell him that other people may need to keep an eye on him for a longer time.

It shouldn’t be super surprising that PeV seems to be spreading in the U.S. right now. It’s activity tends to be highest in the Summer and Fall. People dropping Covid-19 precautions such as face masks, as if they were dirty underwear, could lead to other viruses spreading more. It’s not clear how many PeV cases there have been, because the U.S. doesn’t have a formal surveillance set up for this virus and illnesses caused by this virus and you can’t count what you are not counting.

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