Parechovirus outbreaks a risk for kids

02 May 2018

Epidemics of human parechovirus (HPeV), a virus which can cause severe neurodevelopmental issues in exposed infants, have been occurring in Australia every 2 years since 2013, according to research published this week in the Medical Journal of Australia.

While most HPeV infections cause mild symptoms, such as gastroenteritis or influenza-like illness, the HPeV epidemics in Australia have been associated with more severe disease and poorer clinical outcomes when compared to outbreaks in other countries.

Dr Philip Britton, Infectious Diseases Physician and researcher at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and The University of Sydney is co-author on the paper that highlights the lack of effective antiviral therapies for HPeV.  Instead, treatment is primarily supportive, including management of complications.

“Because of the potential for adverse neurodevelopmental issues following severe HPeV infection, it’s recommended that all children hospitalised with HPeV infection should be followed up by a paediatrician at least until school entry, and preferably afterwards, to monitor development and learning, and to manage complications, including seizures,” said Dr Britton.

Professor Kristine Macartney, Director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance and lead of the Paediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance (PAEDS) network, was another author of the paper. PAEDS have been tracking an increased frequency of HPeV cases since August 2017.

Between July and December 2017 alone, they recorded more than 200 cases of hospitalised HPeV infection in young infants associated with the current epidemic.

You can listen to Dr Philip Britton discussing the emerging epidemic in more detail in this podcast with the Medical Journal of Australia.

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