Health officials warn that this common, but little-known, virus can pose a lethal threat to infants.
About two weeks after he was born, Kat DeLancy’s son, Ronan, became fussy and stopped eating as well as he had been.
Ms. DeLancy, 34, hoped it was colic. But Ronan also developed a flat, red rash on his chest. So Ms. DeLancy, who lives with her husband and toddler in Connecticut, took her baby to the pediatrician. He had no fever and his vital signs looked good, the doctor said. She thought it might be gas and suggested that Ms. DeLancy, who was breastfeeding, try cutting dairy from her diet.
Four days later — after a slew of tests and scans revealed Ronan had significant swelling in parts of his brain — Ms. DeLancy and her husband, Mitchell, finally got an explanation for Ronan’s sudden illness: He had parechovirus, a common pathogen that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms or no symptoms at all. But in rare instances — particularly among infants — it can cause severe illness and irreparable brain tissue damage, as was the case with Ronan. He died in his parents’ arms, 34 days after he was born.
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health alert notifying doctors, nurses and public health departments to the fact that the virus has been circulating nationally since May. The C.D.C. is urging clinicians to consider it as a possible diagnosis for any babies with unexplained fever, seizures or sepsis-like symptoms.
After Ronan’s death in June, Ms. DeLancy chose to share her family’s story with news outlets to get the word out about this little-discussed virus.