Virus Spike Sends More Than A Dozen Babies To Hospitals

(KSHB) A Shawnee, Kansas mom wants other parents to be aware of a virus being investigated right now in the Kansas City area.

Fourteen infants from Missouri and Kansas have become sick from a parechovirus referred to as HPeV3.

Katie McClure's son, Sean, was just 5 days old when he suddenly stopped breathing. McClure instructed her older son to call 911. Once Sean arrived to the emergency room at Children's Mercy Hospital, doctors diagnosed Sean with HPeV3. The virus led to meningitis in her son's brain.

Days later, doctors told McClure her son wasn't going to make it. He was having seizures constantly and required a feeding tube.

"They only gave him 24 hours to live," McClure explained.

Fast forward one month, and Wednesday, Sean is now home from the hospital and improving.

McClure said Sean's doctors are worried about brain damage, but no longer concerned he won't make it.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is investigating 14 cases; nine babies from Kansas and five from Missouri have the virus. All of the infants had to be hospitalized.

The virus isn't rare, but doctors said the babies coming to area hospitals are younger and sicker than what they normally see.

"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," Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, the Division of Infectious Diseases Director at Children's Mercy, said.

This type of virus is new to doctors. It's only been researched for the past five years.

​McClure said she's just glad to have her son home in her arms and is so thankful for Sean's doctors.
"They did the best they could and here he is. He's our little miracle man. He showed them that you can get through it," she said while snuggling up to her son on the couch.

However, researchers said the majority of babies don't have any long-term effects.

"In one study out of Toronto sick babies, 90% of those babies were completely normal as they grow up. So do we know all the answers about this virus at this point? Not yet," explained Dr. Jackson.
The Shawnee Mission Medical Center and Children's Mercy Hospital both reported cases of the virus.

KDHE said it hasn't found any common factors linking the cases together. They said the virus is more common in the summer months.

Babies can get this virus as easily as adults can catch a cold, according to the KDHE. One common place the virus spreads is on public diaper changing tables. Doctors suggest parents washing their hands more frequently and wiping down public changing tables with an antibacterial wipe.

Infectious Disease Specialist at Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Dr. John Fried, said, "The virus will live in the environment, the table, linen that's been soiled for several hours."

Breast feeding will also protect infants from the virus. "The most severe illnesses mostly found in birth and six weeks old .. around six weeks the baby can start making it own antibodies and has more protection. That first month the baby depends a lot on the antibodies from the mother through the birth process or the breast milk."

The virus impacts infants less than 12 months old. School-age children are immune to this particular HPeV3 virus.

Symptoms vary, though meningitis is common with many infants who come in contact with HPeV3. Children can also develop a rash on their hands or feet. Some symptoms include those for meningitis, including diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory illness. Other symptoms include high fever, high-pitched crying, irritability and others, but doctors caution that just because a child has those symptoms, it doesn't mean children have HPeV3, as those symptoms are consistent with other ailments.

Parents and caretakers are urged to use proper handwashing techniques and to keep sick people away from the child. Specific transmission of the virus has not been completely determined, but doctors say it's more than likely through body secretions.

KDHE is urging parents to take their children to the hospital right away if they notice any symptoms. A specific test can determine if the child has the HPeV3 parechovirus.

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