Flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) seasons are approaching, but enterovirus season is in full swing. The Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center (CHU) and the Montreal Children’s Hospital are seeing an increase in hospitalizations related to this virus that can cause meningitis. Newborns are particularly affected.
Enteroviruses usually circulate in late summer and early fall. They can cause various infectious diseases, such as hand-foot-and-mouth disease, conjunctivitis and viral meningitis. “It is not surprising to see cases of enterovirus [à ce temps-ci]and even to see severe cases, but we find that we have a lot of them this year,” says the Dr Jesse Papenburg, pediatrician and microbiologist-infectiologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
The Montreal pediatric establishment does not monitor the Pandemic curve of enteroviruses on a weekly basis as it does for influenza and RSV. But clinicians in the field are noting an increase in severe cases in the emergency room as well as hospitalizations linked to this group of viruses.
“We have seen infants and older children of school age, and even adolescents, who had symptoms of meningitis and who had to be hospitalized,” indicates the Dr Papenburg. He cites in particular the case of a newborn who ended up in intensive care following sepsis (blood infection).
At the CHU Sainte-Justine, “many more” newborns infected with this group of viruses were hospitalized this summer compared to previous summer periods, according to the DD Caroline Quach-Thanh, pediatrician and microbiologist-infectious disease specialist. “It feels like it’s a really good enterovirus season,” she said. We are currently trying to type our enteroviruses to try to understand which ones are at work. »
Since May, European Union member states such as France, Spain, Italy and Sweden have reported severe cases of infections to the World Health Organization (WHO). to the enterovirus Echovirus 11 in newborns. In a bulletin published in July, the WHO estimated, based on the “limited information” available to it, “that the risk to public health in the general population is low”.
The DD Quach-Thanh emphasizes that he does not want to “alert” parents, but wants the population to be aware of the existence of this group of viruses. “In summer and winter, we don’t deliberately go to see the little babies who have just been born when we have cold symptoms, even if it seems stupid,” she says.
Enteroviruses form a large family of viruses that can manifest themselves through a variety of symptoms: fever, sore throat or headache, runny nose, gastrointestinal disorders, etc. According to the Dr Papenburg, “the vast majority of infections” caused by this virus resolve after a few days and do not necessarily require a medical consultation.
However, you should go to the emergency room when your child shows signs of meningitis, such as fever, severe headache, drowsiness, irritability, photophobia and pain or stiffness in the of the neck. Tests will determine whether it is viral (caused by an enterovirus) or bacterial meningitis.
“The risks of sequelae are really very small when it comes to an infection with an enterovirus, whereas they are very important in the case of bacterial meningitis”, explains Dr.r Papenburg. The latter can lead to deafness – “the number 1 aftereffect”, he specifies –, neurological problems or even death.
There is no specific treatment for viral meningitis. “Sometimes a solution can help,” says Dr.r Papenburg. But it’s time that makes the symptoms pass. »
The DD Quach-Thanh points out that a hospital visit is necessary when an infant less than one month old has a fever in order to “rule out” the possibility of a bacterial infection.
As for older children, parents are able to judge whether a medical consultation is necessary, according to her. “We know our children,” says the DD Quach-Thanh. If you have the impression that it is really out of the ordinary compared to your usual colds and infections, you should consult a doctor. Not necessarily in the emergency room. We can see our family doctor or our pediatrician. »