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Public Health Wales reassures parents after investigation of enterovirus cluster

12 May 2023 2 minute read
Baby hand. Welsh Government

Public Health Wales doctors are reassuring parents after a very small number of cases of a rare complication of enterovirus has caused heart problems in very young babies.

Ten babies from the south Wales area have been given hospital treatment for the infection since June 2022.  All were under one month old.  Sadly, one baby has died.

Public Health Wales is stressing that myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscles) in reaction to the infection remains extremely rare.

Dr Christopher Williams, consultant epidemiologist for Public Health Wales, said: “Enterovirus is a common infection of childhood, causing a range of infections including respiratory disease, hand, foot and mouth, and viral meningitis.  In very young babies, enterovirus can, in rare cases, also cause a severe illness in the first few weeks of life. Most babies and children recover completely following enterovirus infection.

“It only affects the heart on very rare occasions. This cluster is unusual due to the number of cases reported in a relatively short time frame, and so investigations are now ongoing in collaboration with the paediatric team in the children’s hospital of Wales to understand the reasons why and to investigate any further cases that may be reported in the coming weeks and months.

“Parents should be reassured that although there has been an increase in cases, this is still an extremely rare occurrence.”

Health officials are advising parents and carers to practice good hand hygiene – including washing hands thoroughly before and after changing nappies, after using the toilet, and before preparing food.

Public Health Wales has also issued a briefing to health professionals in Wales to inform them of the cluster but no outbreak has been declared.

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