Parechovirus In Young Children Can Cause “Sepsis-Like” Symptoms

July 15, 2022

You may not have heard of parechovirus before, but if you’re a parent or you care for young children, it’s essential that you learn about it. Human parechovirus is a virus that can cause life-threatening sepsis in babies, especially newborns. It generally causes mild respiratory infection in older children, although it can cause complications in rare cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory for the public and healthcare professionals to be alert for signs of the virus. Doctors have seen an increase in cases in several states and while most children only experience mild respiratory symptoms or may not have symptoms at all, the virus is dangerous to younger children. One infant in Connecticut died after contracting the infection when he was two weeks old.

Children can spread parechovirus to others whether they have symptoms or not. For the first three weeks following infection, they can spread the virus through respiratory drops (coughing, sneezing, etc.). The virus stays in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract for as long as six months and can be spread through contact with feces.

Parechovirus Symptoms

The most common symptoms for toddlers infected with the parechovirus include:

  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Fever
  • Rash

Infants can also develop:

  • Symptoms of meningitis (headache, irritability, intolerance to bright lights)
  • “Sepsis-like” symptoms, being very unwell, having a high fever
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty rousing
  • Difficulty feeding

Older children who do develop a more severe case could experience:

  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty walking
  • Headaches
  • Confusion or altered mental status

Reasons to Bring Your Child to the Emergency Room

There are obvious reasons to bring your child to an emergency room (ER), like when they have difficulty breathing, but it can be stressful if you’re unsure. If you have concerns about what you should do if your child is sick after hours, speak with your healthcare professional during a well-baby visit. Ask who you should contact and where to bring your child if they need emergency care.

If your baby is younger than two months old, do not hesitate to go to the ER if they have a fever of 100.5 degrees or more. Fever in infants is considered serious.

If you are still in doubt, it is always best to be safe than sorry and bring your child in to be evaluated by a doctor.

Just like any infection, parechovirus can lead to sepsis. Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you suspect sepsis, seek emergency help immediately.

Sepsis symptoms in children can include:

  • Skin that is abnormally cold to touch
  • Skin that looks mottled or bluish, or is very pale
  • Has a rash that doesn’t fade when you press it with your finger
  • Rapid breathing
  • Seizures
  • Is difficult to rouse, seems confused

For infants, symptoms can also include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced movements
  • Difficulty feeding or nursing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Swollen belly
  • Jaundice (yellow skin and whites of the eyes)

To learn more about sepsis and how it can affect children, please visit Sepsis and Children, part of the Sepsis and… library.