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Viral meningitis in Kansas City-area babies probed

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Health authorities are investigating several cases of meningitis in young infants in the Kansas City area, caused by a common virus but hitting more newborns than usual this summer.

Whether the cases have any common link is among questions authorities are trying to answer.

Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City has treated about 17 infants with "summer viral meningitis," said Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, an infectious disease specialist there. A few developed severe neurological illness but all have been released and none are expected to have long-term problems, Jackson said Wednesday.

She said infants born at eight area hospitals had been treated for viral meningitis at her hospital, and they included some as young as about a week old. Their symptoms included high fevers and high-pitched crying.

The germ involved is a strain of human parechovirus called HPeV3. Shawnee Mission Medical Center in Kansas first reported the parechovirus cases to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in June, The Kansas City Star reported ( ).

The strain involved can cause mild cold-like symptoms and illnesses other than meningitis. The Kansas health department is investigating laboratory-confirmed HPeV3 infections in 14 area infants, said spokeswoman Amy Rosenow, but she said she didn't know if all 14 had meningitis or other illnesses caused by the same strain.

Children's Mercy spokesman Jake Jacobson said the cases treated at his hospital also were lab-confirmed, and Rosenow said her agency is working with Children's Mercy and Shawnee Mission Medical Center to pin down how many infants have developed meningitis.

"We're trying to identify what the symptoms were and if there were any common links that could potentially link those cases together," Rosenow said.

The virus is spread through contact with saliva and feces, but Jackson said cases in newborns suggested some might have become infected from their mothers before birth.

HPeV3 infections are very common and meningitis cases occur nationwide each year; hospitals can report them voluntarily to health departments but reporting isn't mandatory.

Jackson said her hospital typically treats 30 to 100 cases of summer meningitis each year.

Rosenow said her agency is working with the Missouri Health Department and the CDC to determine if there have been other infections.

"We're trying to identify what the symptoms were and if there were any common links that could potentially link those cases together," Rosenow said.


Information from: The Kansas City Star,

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