CDC Issues Alert for Parechovirus, a Virus Dangerous to Infants

At least one newborn has died from a PeV infection, but the CDC is still unsure how prevalent it is. Here's what parents should know.

Worried Mother with protective mask holding her baby and measuring temperature with Infrared Thermometer
Photo: Getty

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a health advisory about a virus potentially harmful to young infants.

The CDC said it has been receiving reports of the virus, known as parechovirus (PeV), since May.

Human parechoviruses (PeVs) are common in children and have various symptoms. The CDC encourages doctors to test for PeV if a child has symptoms, including:

  • Fever
  • Sepsis-like syndrome
  • Neurologic illnesses, such as seizures and meningitis, without another known cause
  • An upper respiratory tract infection

The advisory is a public warning—the CDC still needs to learn more about it. It's unclear how prevalent PeV currently is because the U.S. does not have surveillance testing for it, but the CDC says it has received reports from multiple states. The advisory says it can be transmitted in both symptomatic cases and asymptomatically if fecal particles pass through a person's mouth or through respiratory droplets or aerosols. PeV often circulates in the summer and fall, but the CDC is unsure if this strain will be seasonal.

There is no specific treatment, but diagnosing PeV can help families and health care providers get more information on managing it. It can be especially dangerous in babies less than 3 months old. Long-term neurological issues are rare but can happen, the CDC says.

At least one infant has died from the virus. Katherine Delaney said her son, Ronan, was born without complications on May 21. But 10 days later, Katherine told CT Insider she noticed a rash on his cheeks, redness on his checks, and that he was more lethargic. She took Ronan to Yale New Haven Hospital.

"In that span of 20 days, they did every possible test," Katherine told CT Insider. "They did genetic testing, looking if it was an inborn error of metabolism. They checked him for epilepsy and certain seizure disorders. They also were looking to see if he maybe had a head injury of some sort."

Ultimately, doctors put Ronan in a medically-induced coma and ran more tests, like MRIs. They diagnosed him with PeV. Ronan passed away in his mother's arms. He was 34 days old.

Now, all Katherine wants is for other families to be aware of the virus that killed her son.

"If something can change, and some other family doesn't have to go through the same thing, then at least Ronan has made an impact," Delaney told CT Insider.

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