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. Good hygiene, especially when you’re sick, can help stop it spreading. This page gives you more information.
What is parechovirus?
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. You can also catch it from objects and surfaces that have these things on them, like cutlery, plates and toilets.
Babies and young children can become very unwell, very quickly. Rarely, parechovirus can cause sepsis, a severe blood infection, or meningitis, 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:
- fast heart rate
- extreme tiredness
- a red skin rash.
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.
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.
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.
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 and toilets 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.
If you think your child has parechovirus-like symptoms, contact your doctor. You can also use healthdirect’s online symptom checker to get advice on when to see a doctor.
Last reviewed: August 2016