This spring, for six weeks, 23 children were admitted to a Tennessee hospital for treatment for parechovirus, a common virus that can rarely kill babies. report published this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC, 21 children recovered without complications, but one of them was at risk of hearing loss and blood clots, and the other child had persistent seizures and was expected to suffer from severe developmental delay.
The children were admitted to the Nashville Hospital – Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University – were aged 5 days to 3 months, and their illnesses were identified from April 12 to May 24, according to the CDC. The report describes the infections as “an unusually large cluster”. Six more cases have been identified at the hospital at other times this year, according to the report, a “peak of infections” compared to recent years.
According to the CDC, 13 patients were girls and 10 boys, all of whom were previously healthy.
Shortly after this CDC cluster warned doctors this month that the type of parechovirus most associated with serious illness has been circulating in the country since May. He proposed parechovirus as a diagnosis for children with unexplained fever or seizures.
Parechovirus is so common that most children are infected by it by the time they reach kindergarten age, and its symptoms include a runny nose and sneezing—what we usually associate with the common cold.
But infants under 3 months old, especially those less than a month old, are at greater risk of severe disease, according to the CDC.
There is no cure for parechovirus, but diagnoses can still determine how doctors deal with the disease.
Experts say it’s possible the rise in cases is due to increased communication after a period of self-isolation during which people were not exposed to common pathogens that could weaken their immune systems. But it’s also possible that babies are just being tested for parechovirus more often.
“Our ‘eyes’ are better, so we see more. Kenneth Alexander, director of infectious disease at the Nemours Children’s Hospital in Florida, said New York Times this month.