14 infants in KC hospitals diagnosed with dangerous virus

KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Kansas City health authorities in Missouri and Kansas are investigating infections among 14 infants with a parechovirus referred to as HPeV3. The virus can cause viral meningitis and other possibly serious inflammation.

Of the 14 cases the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is investigating, nine babies are from Kansas and five babies are from Missouri. All of the infants have had to be hospitalized. Shawnee Mission Medical Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital have reported cases.

At last report, none of the infants have died. It remains unclear is the infections are connected.

The first cases of the virus were discovered in June.

Medical professionals tell KSN that about 80 percent of the cases in the United States occur from June through October, during these warmer months.

The recent rise however, is most apparent among babies.

“It appears we’re seeing more babies in the first couple weeks of life. We know that with other viruses, babies who have infection in the first week or two of life may have more severe disease,” said Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, the Division of Infectious Diseases Director at Children’s Mercy Hospital.

KDHE is reportedly working with the Missouri Health Department and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if there have been or are additional infections.

Symptoms of the HPeV3 virus can include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Red, crusty eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Fever (especially in infants)
  • Cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Respiratory issues
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

If a baby or young child has a fever, medical professionals instruct parents to bring them to a doctor’s office or the emergency room, and not wait to address their high temperature, specifically in infants.

The virus spreads through contact with respiratory and G.I. secretions, and/or through stool. Doctors say the best way to prevent the virus is by washing your hands.

“Washing your hands before you change the diaper, after you change the diaper, definitely before you feed or handle the baby, and making sure other people do too,” said Lois Rahal, an infection prevention nurse at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.

“It can live on surfaces long enough that you could pick it up on your hands, so if someone changed a diaper and didn’t wash their hands and touched a doorknob, and you touch the doorknob and then rubbed your nose, you could pick it up,” continued Rahal.

Rahal also told KSN that nursing a newborn can help by passing on antibodies that can improve a baby’s immune system.

At last check, no cases have been reported at Wichita hospitals.

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