What Is the Echovirus?
The Echovirus is
one of the many types of viruses that inhabit the gastrointestinal tract. These
viruses are collectively called Enteroviruses.
Enteroviruses are second only to
rhinoviruses as the most common viruses in people. An example of a rhinovirus is
the common cold. The name Echovirus is derived from the name “enteric cytopathic human orphan (ECHO) virus.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
estimates that there are 10 to 15 million symptomatic Enterovirus infections in the United States each year. This means that
infections with Echovirus and other Enteroviruses are very common.
You can become infected with Echovirus in many different ways. These include coming into contact
with feces contaminated by the virus, breathing in infected air particles, or
touching contaminated surfaces.
The illness that the virus typically produces in humans is relatively
mild. In rare cases, a severe infection can occur.
What Are the Symptoms of Echovirus Infection?
Most people infected with Echovirus have no symptoms. If an infected person does develop
symptoms, they’re typically mild upper-respiratory symptoms, such as:
- a cough
- a sore throat
- flu-like symptoms
- a rash
Other common symptoms include croup, which
is breathing difficulty coupled with a barking cough.
A less common symptom is viral meningitis, which is an infection of the membranes surrounding the brain
and spinal cord. Viral meningitis may cause the following symptoms:
- a fever
- a severe sensitivity to light
- a headache
- a stiff or rigid neck
Viral meningitis usually isn’t life-threatening, but it can
be so serious that you need to be hospitalized for it. The symptoms often
appear rapidly and should disappear within two weeks with no complications.
Rare symptoms include myocarditis, which causes inflammation
of the heart muscle, and encephalitis, which causes irritation and inflammation
of the brain.
These conditions are uncommon, but they can be significant.
Myocarditis can be fatal.
How Does Someone Get Infected with Echovirus?
The virus is very common. You may become infected with Echovirus if you come into contact with
respiratory secretions like saliva or mucus from the nose or the feces of an
You can get the virus from direct contact with an infected
person or by just touching contaminated surfaces or other household objects
such as meal utensils or a telephone. A parent or childcare worker can become
infected from a baby’s feces while changing their diaper.
Who Is at Risk of Infection?
Anyone can become infected. Adults are more likely to have
built up immunity to certain types of Enteroviruses,
but they can still become infected.
In the United States, the infection is more common during
summer and fall.
How Is an Echovirus Infection Diagnosed?
Specific testing for Echovirus
is often not performed. This is because Echovirus
infections are usually very mild, and there’s no real treatment available.
Echovirus can be
confirmed with the following laboratory tests:
- a rectal culture
- a stool culture
- a throat culture
- a spinal fluid culture
How Is Echovirus Treated?
infections typically go away without treatment. There’s no antiviral treatment
available for Echovirus infection.
What Are the Long-Term Complications?
Usually, there are no long-term complications. If you
develop the less common symptom of encephalitis, you may not fully recover. If you
develop myocarditis, you may need long-term care.
Complications During or After Pregnancy
There’s no evidence that pregnant women who become infected
with Echovirus will experience an
adverse outcome with their pregnancy. However, the newborn is at a higher risk
of infection if they’re born during the same time that the mother is infected
with the virus. Most newborns will have a mild illness.
On rare occasions, the virus can overwhelm the baby’s
organs. This can be fatal. The risk of severe infection in newborns is highest
during the first two weeks after birth.
How Can Echovirus
Infection with an Echovirus
cannot be directly prevented, and there’s no vaccine available.
It can be challenging to control the spread of the virus.
This is because most people who have the infection don’t become sick and don’t
know they’re carrying the virus.
Frequent hand washing and general cleanliness practices, such
as cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, especially in childcare centers and
other institutional settings, may help prevent the spread of the virus.
If you’re pregnant and you have an Echovirus infection, you should follow good personal hygiene
practices during childbirth to prevent spreading the infection to your newborn.