Kansas health authorities said Friday that they have expanded their investigation to include four more cases of a common but potentially dangerous virus striking infants in the Kansas City area.
The additional cases were in geographic proximity to the nine Kansas cases already under investigation by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. At least five Missouri infants also have been infected.
“We’re trying to determine if there are any links among the cases,” department spokeswoman Aimee Rosenow said.
So far, no common factors have been found, she said.
The infections have been caused by HPeV3, 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 in the summer and early fall.
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.
The size of the HPeV3 outbreak so far has been typical for this time of year, experts at Children’s Mercy Hospital have said. What has made this summer unusual has been the number of cases among the youngest of infants and the appearance of severe cases with meningitis.
None of the Kansas infants has died, Rosenow said. Information about the Missouri infants was not immediately available.
The Kansas department is coordinating its investigation with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, area hospitals and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.