The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday announced this year’s first death from serious complications caused by enterovirus infection, urging parents and caregivers of infants to watch for early signs of infection.
The parents of a one-year-old boy living in southern Taiwan sought medical help after he experienced intermittent fever and continuous vomiting on Sept. 26 and Sept. 27, CDC physician Lin Yung-ching (林詠青) said.
The boy later experienced excessive sleepiness and was taken to an emergency room for shortness of breath and low vitality on Sept. 28, he said.
He was immediately hospitalized for pulmonary edema, respiratory failure, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and shock, Lin added.
However, he died the same day, Lin said, adding that an examination found that an enterovirus 71 (EV71) infection had led to cardiopulmonary failure.
An investigation by the local health department found that the boy’s elder brother early last month experienced herpangina caused by enterovirus infection and that his school recently suspended classes for enterovirus infection, Lin said, but added that the infant might have contracted EV71 in a public space.
It is the first death caused by enterovirus infection and the only death caused by EV71 infection in three years, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said.
“EV71 is one of the deadliest enteroviruses for children, because it can cause neurological complications and brainstem encephalitis, or myocarditis leading to cardiopulmonary failure,” he said.
CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Director Liu Ting-ping (劉定萍) said there were 16,400 hospital visits for enterovirus infections last week, a 7 percent decline from the week before, showing that the virus’ spread is waning, but has not fallen below the epidemic threshold yet.
The main circulating enterovirus detected in the past four weeks is the Coxsackie A virus, but some EV71 infections were also reported, she said.
Fifty serious enterovirus complications have been reported this year, including 40 people infected with EV71, Liu said.
The CDC expects the epidemic to end by the middle of next month, Lo said, urging parents and infant caregivers to maintain good hand hygiene and pay attention to early signs of severe complications in young children.
When early symptoms, such as excessive sleepiness, shortness of breath, limb weakness, irregular twitching of muscles, continuous vomiting and rapid heartbeat occur, the child should be taken to a hospital for emergency treatment, he said.
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