Human Parechovirus In Babies: Causes, Symptoms & Prevention

Parechovirus infection is caused by parechovirus, a type of virus which mainly affects gastrointestinal system and respiratory system in humans. Often people are infected with this virus but do not produce any symptoms. This virus can cause mild to moderate illness in children and infants, mostly diarrhea and respiratory tract problems. Severe form of disease can affect brain leading to life threatening condition known as meningitis.

The virus was first labeled as human parechovirus in 1956. It was previously called echovirus 22 and 23. A person suffering from parechovirus infection can spread the virus through his respiratory secretions, feces and saliva.

Parechovirus infection is more common in summer and autumn. Treatment is symptomatic. More serious patients need hospitalization for proper management.

Causes And Transmission Of Parechovirus

Human parechovirus belongs to family of single stranded RNA virus called the picornaviridae. The virus is of the same family of enterovirus. Human parechovirus was previously known as echovirus 22 and 23 of enterovirus genus. However, it is identified as a separate genus in 1999 because the genetic and biological structure is found to be different. This virus infection is most active in summer.

Parechovirus in an infected person is found in saliva, respiratory secretion and in the feces.

Infection occurs when a non infected person comes in contact with any of this three infected materials. It can spread through droplets released by the infected person during sneezing and coughing. The spread can also occur through feco-oral route. Infection can occur in any individual, but babies and infants are at greater risk of severe form of infection.

Symptoms Of Parechovirus Infection

Parechovirus infection can develop in any individual. Infants and children are more vulnerable. The symptoms in majority of patients are mild or moderate. However, sometimes the infection can be severe and life threatening. Serious infection such as meningitis, blood infection (sepsis) can occur in babies, especially infants less than 3 months of age.

Following are the symptom manifestation of parechovirus infection:

  • Fever
  • Mild cough and cold
  • Sneezing
  • Redness on skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Infants become lethargic and as a result it causes trouble while feeding.
  • Irritable

Severe form of infection can lead to meningitis (swelling in brain, high body temperature, vomiting, headache, increased irritability). There is risk of sepsis in infants.

Prevention And Treatment Of Parechovirus Infection

There is no specific treatment for parechovirus infection. Most patients begin to feel better after few days as the symptoms are mild. Infants and toddlers need more attention.

Treatment is symptomatic. For example to control fever patient may need anti pyretic medicine. If the patient is dehydrated due to frequent diarrhea, he may need hospitalization for correcting the fluid level and electrolytes in the body.

The best treatment measure is to prevent parechovirus infection. Here are few steps that may help:

  • Good hygienic practice will help to prevent infection.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after using washroom. Always wash your hands before eating.
  • Wash your hands after changing baby’s nappies or soiled clothing.

Person who is suffering from cold and cough must stay away from infants and children.