For six weeks this spring, 23 children were admitted to a Tennessee hospital for treatment for parechovirus, a common virus that in rare cases can pose a deadly threat to infants, according to a report released this week by the Centers. for Disease Control and Prevention. .
Twenty-one of the children recovered without complications, but one was at risk of hearing loss and blood clots, the CDC said, while another child suffered from persistent seizures and was expected to suffer from severe developmental delay.
The children admitted to the Nashville hospital — Vanderbilt University’s Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital — were between 5 days and 3 months old and their illnesses were detected from April 12 to May 24, the CDC said. The report describes the infections as an “unusually large cluster”. Six other cases were identified in the hospital at other times this year, a “spike in infections” from recent years, the report said.
Thirteen of the patients were girls and 10 were boys, and all were previously healthy, the CDC said.
Shortly after that cluster, the CDC alerted doctors this month that the type of parechovirus most associated with severe illness has been circulating nationwide since May. He suggested parechovirus as a diagnosis to consider for babies with unexplained fever or seizures.
Parechovirus is so common that most children have been infected with it by the time they reach kindergarten age, and its symptoms include a runny nose and sneezing – what we normally associate with the common cold.
But infants younger than 3 months, and especially those younger than 1 month, are at higher risk of severe illness, the CDC says.
There is no cure for parechovirus, but diagnoses can still govern how doctors manage the disease.
Experts say it’s possible the rise in cases stems from increased socialization after a period of lockdown in which people weren’t exposed to common pathogens, which could have weakened their system immune. But it’s also possible that babies are simply being tested more often for parechovirus.
“Our ‘eyes’ have gotten better, so we’re seeing more of them,” Dr. Kenneth Alexander, chief of infectious diseases at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Florida, told The New York Times this month.