In March 2013, NSW Health received reports of a rise in the number of young children aged less than five years old with severe neurological complications caused by a particular type of enterovirus. Many of the reports concerned children from the northern and south-eastern regions of Sydney.
Information was passed on to the general community and health professionals to encourage early detection and appropriate management. An enhanced surveillance program was also initiated to better describe the state-wide picture of the outbreak, to better describe the clinical presentation and progression of paediatric cases, and to characterise the particular strains of enteroviruses involved.
Enterovirus is part of a group of viruses that can cause a range of illness, including fevers, rashes, and the common childhood infection hand, foot and mouth disease.
Infection can rarely lead to neurological complications, including inflammation of brain or spinal cord, leading to irritability, seizures, unsteadiness and weakness.
Most cases make a complete recovery. Some children may be hospitalised for a short time. However, on rare occasions infection can be life threatening or cause long term effects.
Enhanced enterovirus surveillance reports
* Please see the Communicable Diseases Weekly Reports for more recent information on enterovirus surveillance.