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Increased detection of human parechovirus infection in infants in England during 2016: epidemiology and clinical characteristics


Background Human parechovirus (HPeV), like enteroviruses, usually causes mild self-limiting respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms. In infants, HPeV can occasionally cause serious illnesses, including sepsis-like syndrome and encephalitis. In summer 2016, Public Health England (PHE) received increasing reports of severe HPeV infections nationally. We, therefore, reviewed all infants with confirmed HPeV across England during 2016.

Methods HPeV cases in infants aged <12 months reported to PHE during 2016 were followed up using a clinical questionnaire. Additional cases identified by clinicians completing the questionnaire were also included.

Results We identified 106 infants with confirmed HPeV infection during 2016. The disease peaked during early summer. Most infants (98/106, 92%) were aged <90 days, and 43% (46/106) were neonates. Fever was the most commonly reported symptom (92%) and signs of circulatory shock were present in 53%. Eighteen infants (18%) required paediatric intensive care admission. Most infants had normal or low C reactive protein concentrations (<10 mg/dL in 75%, <50 mg/dL in 98%). A lumbar puncture was performed in 98% of cases; 92% (33/36) of neonates and 93% (53/57) of older infants had normal white cell count in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Nearly all reported cases (98%) were confirmed by CSF PCR. All infants survived, but five had ongoing seizures after hospital discharge.

Conclusions HPeV is an important cause of febrile illness in infants and can have severe clinical presentations. Early diagnosis may help reduce antimicrobial use, unnecessary investigations and prolonged hospitalisation. While prognosis remains favourable, some infants will develop long-term complications—paediatricians should ensure appropriate follow-up after discharge.

  • human parechovirus
  • infants
  • viral infections
  • sepsis-like infections
  • encephalitis

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