Health authorities on both sides of the state line are investigating infections among 14 Kansas City area infants with a virus that can cause meningitis, as well as widespread inflammation, serious enough to require intensive care.
The condition of the infants was not immediately available, but many have had to be hospitalized.
Cases began in June and were first reported to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment by Shawnee Mission Medical Center.
Additional cases have been reported by Children’s Mercy Hospital.
“It’s possible we could see more cases. It’s something we’re looking closely at,” KDHE spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow said Monday.
Rosenow called the cases “a possible cluster of infections” that may, or may not, be related.
“It’s still pretty early on,” she said. “We don’t know if there’s a common factor linking the cases.”
Nine of the Kansas City area cases have been among infants who are Kansas residents. Five have been among Missouri residents.
The infections have been caused by HPeV3. It’s one of a group of viruses, called human parechoviruses, that have emerged in recent years as an important cause of a variety of ailments in very young children.
Although many human parechovirus infections are mild and have few or no symptoms, they can cause diarrhea, vomiting and respiratory illnesses. The infections are most common during the summer.
HPeV3, in particular, has been associated with central nervous infections resulting in meningitis in newborns. The virus also can cause a severe inflammatory response by the body’s immune system, leading to fever, irritability, seizures and rash.
None of the Kansas infants has died, but all have required hospitalization, Rosenow said. Information about the Missouri infants was not immediately available from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Rosenow said KDHE is trying to determine whether there have been HPeV3 infections at other health care facilities. KDHE is working with the Missouri health department, Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Children’s Mercy Hospital and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.