May 23, 2008
Mild Virus Causes 5 Baby Deaths in the U.S.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that a virus that typically causes a mild infection killed at least five babies in the United States last year.
The CDC said the virus was involved in an unusually high number of severe infections in newborns last year, but they are not certain of the reason.
Coxsackievirus B1 (CVB1) is an enterovirus that usually does not cause serious infections but is capable of severe and potentially life-threatening illness in newborns.
"Tens of thousands of children are infected with this virus annually," said Steve Oberste, who headed a laboratory that helped track the infections.
Oberste said people should probably not be very concerned about the virus. He also said there is no sign it has mutated into a more dangerous form.
The virus has been the culprit in the deaths of two babies in California and one in Illinois, Colorado and New Mexico. Oberste said it was possible there could be more deaths that the CDC is unaware of.
According to the CDC, all five newborns had symptoms of the virus within the first week of life, and in four of the cases, there was evidence of possible mother-to-infant transmission of the virus.
The agency said, "CVB1-associated deaths are reported rarely, and had not been reported previously" to the formal enterovirus surveillance system in place since 1970.
Oberste said the enteroviruses don't cause much disease and probably less than 1 percent of all infections result in any illness at all. "An even smaller percentage is serious illness. They're mostly quite mild," he added.
Usual symptoms for this infection include fever, respiratory problems and sore throat. It can spread through sneezing or touching contaminated fecal matter. There is no specific treatment for the infection.
The CDC said Health-care providers and public health departments should be vigilant to the possibility of neonatal disease caused by CVB1.
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