Health care providers in multiple states have reported a virus that can cause seizures, meningitis and other severe illnesses in infants under 3 months old, federal officials said Thursday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert notifying doctors and public health departments that cases of parechovirus have been seen in newborns and young infants since May.
The alert doesn’t say which states have seen infections in young children or how many cases have been reported.
The advisory notes that because there is no systematic surveillance for parechovirus it isn’t clear how the number of cases compares to earlier seasons. But increased testing in recent years could account for a higher number of cases, the agency said.
Every positive case recorded by the agency has involved PeV-A3, the type of parechovirus that most often causes severe disease, the CDC said.
The virus, a common childhood pathogen thatcirculates in the summer and fall and spreads through sneezing, coughing, saliva and feces, causes less serious illness in children older than 6 months, the agency said. Symptoms include a rash, an upper respiratory tract infection and fever.
Experts who have examined the spinal fluid of babies with severe parechovirus infections have found that their white blood cells have vanished or nearly disappeared.
There is no treatment for the virus.
The alert encourages doctors to test for the virus and to keep infants hospitalized with infections together to avoid spreading the disease to nurseries or neonatal intensive care units.
Tim Stelloh is a breaking news reporter for NBC News Digital.