When should you be concerned?
Hearing about CDC health updates about OTHER viruses in the middle of a pandemic is not exactly easy on the minds of parents.
In July, the CDC issued a health advisory to clinicians about parechovirus. Of course, the media got hold of it and has caused some parents to be overly concerned.
So, this blog goes over what we know and how to proceed with viruses in our community.
What is parechovirus?
This is a family of viruses similar to enterovirus (common in children). There are four types of the virus, but one is known to cause disease in human. The strain they have isolated has been PeV-A3. They have isolated this in some reported cases since May in newborns, the elderly, and immunocompromised people. This virus is not new to humans (like SARS-COV-2 was), but we are just seeing some cases now hence the report.
What season is parechovirus common in?
It is common in summer and fall, however like many viruses in this pandemic we have seen changes in seasonality. Like how we have seen RSV in fall and summer, when we usually see it in the winter and spring. So, it’s important to be aware (but not panic) about this for months to come.
How is it spread?
It’s thought to be spread through respiratory contact (coughing/sneezing) and feces, which by the way is common of many viruses.
What are the symptoms of parechovirus?
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and we don’t know why some kids would have more severe symptoms. We do know that babies under six months may be more at risk of complications given their immature immune systems, ESPECIALLY children under two months. But what that risk is, we do not know.
In children 6 months to 5 years, symptoms have included cold and cough symptoms, fever, and a rash.
In children under 2 months, there have been reported cases that had fever, sepsis-like illnesses, seizures, or meningitis. Those are a lot of scary words, however do remember that babies under two months in general are higher risk for complications from ALL viruses, which is why want to be mindful of crowded places and not allowing visitors who are sick in any way.
So, what to do with this information?
In general, I have always recommended being mindful of our babies under 2 months. Avoid crowded places and/or visitors who are under the weather. This can reduce the risk of spread of ALL viruses, not just COVID or parechovirus. If a family member or someone who directly cares for infant is sick, the best precaution is hand-hygiene and wearing a mask. Remember hand-hygiene is always useful around children (and for us in general).
Watch this YouTube video for more about newborns, outings, and visitors !
Have older siblings kiss the feet and toes of newborns avoiding the face, hands, or lips which can spread illness more.
There is no need to test your child for this virus if they have a fever or runny nose. This will inundate our medical system and cause you more panic than is needed.
Rather, monitor signs like you would with any virus:
- If your child is under 3 months with a fever, run it by your clinician. There are other reasons for fever besides this virus.
- If your child of any age has lethargy, irritability, seizures, or not interactive at baseline; seek medical attention. This is common advice for ANY parent, not just because of parechovirus.
- Remember, the CDC health statement was meant for clinicians more than parents (so that we are aware of various diseases that may not normally be on our radar).
If your child does get parechovirus (tested in ER for example) and has mild symptoms, monitor like you would any virus.
Is there a treatment for parechovirus?
Like many viruses, there is no treatment like a medicine to clear the infection. If admitted to the hospital, care is supportive (oxygen, fluid, antibiotics if there is a bacterial infection as well).
There’s more to learn
As of now, we do not know how many total cases there are nor what states these reports are coming from. I do personally know of hospitalizations and cases (not my direct patients, but colleague’s patients or other contacts). We do know of one reported death, but I do not have any other information. I will keep you updated on any new guidance on this blog.