PARENTS of newborn babies in Queensland are being urged to be on guard for a potentially fatal and highly contagious virus.
Authorities say there have already been 55 cases of parechovirus in Queensland this year, 90 per cent of them among children less than three months old.
Infectious diseases expert Dr Theo Sloots said the very young were in the "danger period" to contract parechovirus.
The virus first broke out in Brisbane last September and has spread to infants on the Gold Coast, Toowoomba and, last month, in Townsville, Mackay and Bundaberg.
The Toowoomba Chronicle told the story of how two babies had been impacted by the virus last month.
Doctors are being especially warned to look out for the symptoms because they often don't recognise it as parechovirus.
Parechovirus can could mild respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms in babies but in newborn infants, can lead to serious complications such as hepatitis or encephalitis.
In children under three months it can cause severe disease, involving the central nervous system with babies having to be put into intensive care.
Other symptoms of parechovirus included high temperatures, diarrhoea, abnormally rapid breathing, severe irritability or appearing to be in pain, rashes or skin discolouration and jerking movements.
The virus is spread via respiratory droplets, saliva and faeces.
Experts are working on a vaccine.
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