What is human parechovirus?
Human parechoviruses (HPeV) were first identified in 1956 and were previously known as echoviruses 22 and 23. They are part of the larger parechovirus genus of viruses. Some HPeV strains are associated with more severe infections such as encephalitis and flaccid paralysis.
What are the symptoms?
Human parechoviruses (HPeVs) usually cause no symptoms at all but when illness occurs it is most commonly a mild diarrheal illness or respiratory infection. Infection with some strains can, rarely, lead to more severe blood infection (sepsis) and neurological infection (meningitis or encephalitis), particularly among young children.
Children under 3 months of age are most likely to develop severe disease – and babies can become unwell very quickly – but most recover after a few days with supportive treatment.
How is it spread?
Parechovirus is usually spread from person to person through contact with respiratory droplets, saliva or faeces from an infected person.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can get infected with parechovirus. Young babies appear to be at risk of more severe disease.
How is it prevented?
There is no vaccine to protect you from parechovirus infection.
Good hygiene is the best protection: wash hands with soap and water after going to the toilet, before eating, after wiping noses, and after changing nappies or soiled clothing
Ensure the mouth and nose are covered when coughing and sneezing. Wipe the nose and mouth with tissues, dispose of used tissues and then wash your hands.
People who are unwell with colds, flu-like illness or gastro illness should stay away from small babies. If you are caring for a small baby and are unwell, wash your hands or use an alcohol-based hand rub before touching or feeding the baby.
How is it diagnosed?
Stool samples, nose and throat swabs, cerebrospinal fluid, or blood can be tested for parechovirus at a specialist laboratory.
How is it treated?
There is no specific treatment for parechovirus; treatment is supportive only.
What is the public health response?
Parechovirus is not a notifiable condition. NSW Health works with clinicians to monitor outbreaks of severe cases.
For further information please call your local Public Health Unit on 1300 066 055