Parechovirus: What You Need to Know

Infectious Diseases physicians Ami Patel, MD, and Larry Kociolek, MD, MSCI, answer frequently asked questions about parechovirus.

What is parechovirus?

Parechovirus is a virus that typically causes a mild illness like the common cold. Most children have mild symptoms, but some children with parechovirus do not have any symptoms. Rarely, parechovirus can cause more serious illness in babies or young infants.

Parechovirus is not a new virus. Parechovirus is closely related to enteroviruses, which commonly cause childhood infections.

Who does parechovirus affect?

Parechovirus can affect anyone, from infants to adults. However, most people have already been affected in childhood. Most children get the virus by the time they enter kindergarten, often with mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Infants, especially younger than 6 months of age, are most at risk for developing severe disease and complications from the infection.  

What are symptoms of parechovirus?

Parechovirus typically causes a mild illness with symptoms such as:

  • Fever
  • Upper respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing or cough
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash (especially on hands and feet)

Rarely, parechovirus infection can lead to more severe illness in young infants such as sepsis (severe blood infection) or neurological conditions such as seizures or meningitis/encephalitis (infection of the brain).

Why can it be particularly severe in infants younger than three months?

Young infants, particularly those under three months of age, can have more severe disease due to parechovirus compared to older children and adult. Infants can have fever, upper respiratory symptoms, diarrhea, or rash but may also develop more severe symptoms such as sepsis (severe blood infection) or neurological conditions such as seizures or meningitis or encephalitis (infection of the brain).  

Is there a typical seasonality to this virus like flu?

Parechovirus is more common in the summer or early fall.

Why did the CDC issue an alert?

In the last few months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has received reports of more cases of brain infection related to parechovirus in infants than in a typical year. The CDC issued a health alert on July 12th to raise awareness that this virus is circulating and to encourage pediatricians to consider this virus when evaluating young infants presenting with severe illness such as sepsis-like syndrome or neurological conditions such as seizures, meningitis, or encephalitis.

How is parechovirus spread?

Parechovirus is spread from person-to-person through contact with an infected person’s respiratory secretions (such as through coughing or sneezing), saliva, or stool. People are most contagious when they are acutely ill with the infection.

How can you prevent the spread of parechovirus?

Good hygiene is the best way to protect against spreading parechovirus.

  • Wash your hands often but especially before eating, before and after touching your eyes, nose and mouth, or after using the bathroom
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Minimize contact with people who are sick

What is the treatment for parechovirus?

There is no treatment or medication specific for parechovirus. Most cases resolve on their own without long-term complications.

Is there a vaccine?

There is no vaccine for parechovirus.

When do you test for parechovirus?

Testing for parechovirus is not routinely required as most children have mild self-limited illnesses. Pediatricians may consider testing for parechovirus when evaluating a young infant with severe illness such as sepsis-like syndrome or neurological conditions such as seizures, meningitis, or encephalitis.

When should I see my doctor? 

Call your doctor or seek medical attention if your child has any of the following, especially if they are younger than 6 months of age: 

  • High fever
  • Rash
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Signs of dehydration (such as dry mouth, decrease in urination or wet diapers, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, producing few or no tears when crying)
  • Is not able to drink or keep down fluids
  • Is not acting normally or extremely sleepy and hard to wake up 

Learn more about Lurie Children's Division of Infectious Diseases.

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