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Potentially fatal parechovirus afflicting babies prompts urgent Queensland probe

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A little-known virus that can be fatal in young babies has prompted Queensland scientists to undertake urgent medical research.

Parechovirus was first reported in Australia in December last year and there have now been dozens of cases across the country.

There have been 11 confirmed cases of babies in Queensland with the infection.

It usually causes fever, rash and diarrhoea, but in severe cases can develop into hepatitis or encephalitis.

There is no specific treatment for the virus.

Researchers at the Queensland Paediatric Infectious Diseases (QPID) laboratory have developed a detection test for parechovirus and have now turned their attention to finding a treatment or preventative vaccine.

QPID Associate Professor Michael Nissen says once parechovirus is diagnosed, doctors can stop antibiotics or other treatments that may cause problems.

"Diagnosing the parechovirus infection quickly is important to reassure everyone that, with appropriate clinical support through this period of time, the patient should recover fully," he said in a statement.

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