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23 infants have been infected by the parechovirus in Nashville and it’s spreading

There have been more cases of parechovirus in 2022 than in the past four years, the CDC reports.

SHARE 23 infants have been infected by the parechovirus in Nashville and it’s spreading

Michelle Budge, Deseret News

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that 23 infants were admitted to a Tennessee hospital last spring for parechovirus. The “unusually large cluster of infections” prompted the CDC to investigate further, as it suggests that social activity may have been the primary method of transmission.

Parechovirus — a sepsis-like enterovirus — typically has weaker symptoms in older patients, such as mild diarrhea, fever or cold and flu-like symptoms, according to Health Direct. If symptoms show at all, it’s often mistaken for the common cold in older children and adults. Symptoms are more severe in young children and babies and can potentially pose a serious health risk for infants under 3 months old. There is no cure for parechovirus. Treatment is given to alleviate symptoms.

All parechovirus cases this year have stemmed from PeV-A3, the strand of the virus most associated with severe symptoms. That strand is transmitted through fecal-oral and respiratory means. Cases are most common in spring, summer and fall, when weather is warmer, the CDC reports.

At the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, 23 children were admitted in a six-week timeframe, their ages ranging from 5 days to 3 months old. This cluster of cases appeared from April 12 to May 24, but six additional cases have been reported at the hospital this year. While deaths from the virus are exceedingly rare, one case earlier this month did prove fatal.

The CDC investigation found:

  • Of the 23 cases, 13 patients were female and 10 were male.
  • Five patients were preterm (28–36 weeks’ gestation), with one case of an infant admitted to the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
  • Sixteen patients had siblings at home or had been exposed to other children.
  • Four infants developed severe disease that required intensive-care treatment.
  • Twenty-one patients recovered without complications, one patient required a six-month follow-up appointment and one was expected to experience severe developmental delay.
A sign at the entrance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pictured on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, in Atlanta.

A sign at the entrance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is seen, Tuesday, April 19, 2022, in Atlanta.

Ron Harris, Associated Press

The CDC reported that while the most common symptoms for these infants were fever, fussiness and poor feeding, one baby had seizures. The center released a Health Advisory through the Health Alert Network (HAN) earlier in July, warning clinicians and public health departments that parechovirus had begun circulating around the United States.

It has been theorized that the substantial increase in parechovirus cases is related to more frequent interaction in communities. After isolating during the pandemic, the CDC stated that, “This peak in infections might reflect relaxation of COVID-19 isolation measures.” Experts also said lockdowns limit the exposure children have to common pathogens, weakening their immune system while in isolation. There is also the possibility that infants are simply being tested more frequently for the virus, however.

According to the CDC, parechovirus is not a reportable disease, so nationwide monitoring is not currently available. Testing for the virus is not available in all hospitals but is present at commercial clinical laboratories. To keep children safe, experts recommend practicing proper hygiene and cleaning, as the virus spreads through fecal-oral and respiratory transmission.