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What is parechovirus?

Parechovirus is a virus that usually has very mild symptoms, or none at all. Sometimes it can cause serious illness in babies and young children.

Parechovirus is closely related to a group of viruses known as enteroviruses. Enteroviruses cause a lot of common childhood infections.

Parechovirus is more common in the spring, summer and autumn than in winter. This is also when gastro-related illnesses are more common.

The types of parechovirus that infect people are known as human parechovirus. 

How does parechovirus spread?

Parechovirus spreads through contact with an infected person’s breath (through sneezing or coughing), saliva or faeces (poo).

You can also catch it from objects and surfaces that have these things on them, like cutlery, plates and toilets.

Good hygiene, especially when you're sick, can help stop it spreading.

What are the symptoms of parechovirus?

Most people with parechovirus don’t have any symptoms.

Some people get mild diarrhoea, fever or cold and flu-like symptoms

Babies and young children can become very unwell, very quickly. Rarely, parechovirus can cause sepsis, a severe blood infection, or meningitis or encephalitis, a severe infection of the membrane surrounding the brain. These are most common in babies younger than 3 months.

Symptoms to look out for in babies and young children include:

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When should I see my doctor?

If you’re worried about the health of your child, see a doctor.

If your child is floppy or drowsy and can’t easily be woken, go to the nearest emergency department or call triple zero (000) for an ambulance. 

How is parechovirus diagnosed?

To diagnose parechovirus, different body fluids need to be tested. Your doctor may take samples of stool, cerebrospinal fluid (fluid that surrounds the brain), blood and secretions from the nose and throat.

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How is parechovirus treated?

Drinking plenty of water and taking paracetamol can help ease symptoms. 

Babies and young children with severe infection may need treatment in hospital. Most recover within a few days with treatment.

Can parechovirus be prevented?

There is no vaccine to stop you getting parechovirus.

As with many viral infections, good hygiene is the best protection. To stop parechovirus spreading you can:

  • wash your hands with soap and water (or hand sanitiser) often, especially after going to the toilet, before eating, after wiping noses and after changing soiled nappies and clothes
  • cover your mouth and nose with your upper arm (not hand) when coughing and sneezing
  • not share eating utensils with people who are unwell
  • keep surfaces and objects such as benchtops, toilets and toys clean
  • stay home if you have cold, flu or gastro symptoms
  • stay away from small babies and young children if you have cold, flu or gastro symptoms
  • always wash or sanitise your hands properly before touching or feeding your baby when you’re sick

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Last reviewed: July 2020

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