A woman takes her baby out for a stroll along the beach in La Jolla, California May 12, 2014.  REUTERS/Mike Blake
A woman takes her baby out for a stroll along the beach in La Jolla, California May 12, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Blake Reuters

A team of scientists has discovered a rare virus in New Zealand that affects babies and children. The virus may cause severe or possibly fatal diseases if left untreated.

Scientists from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research have detected HPeV3 or the human parechovirus 3 from a fecal sample of a two-year-old child. The sample was taken from a toddler who fell ill due to a gastro outbreak at a childcare centre in 2012, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The findings of the "virus hunters" had appeared in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology as part of a study funded by the Health Research Council. The study examined the unsolved outbreaks of human gastroenteritis. According to the scientists, HPeV3 was first detected in Japana in 2004. In 2014, the virus has caused a sepsis outbreak or an infection of the blood in Australian babies.

Dr. Richard Hall said HPeV3 usually affect babies and young children with no symptoms. He warned that the virus can often cause more severe diseases that could prove to be fatal to newborn babies like blood infection, acute inflammation in the brain and even paralysis.

Although it was not clear if the virus had caused the outbreak in 2012, the Ministry of Health and district health board medical officer of the area where the child lives were informed of the study's findings. Dr. Hall said the virus can survive in the human body for only a short time and that the HPeV3 can infect others when contaminated feces make oral contact. Scientists also found that the virus can affect different tissues in the body including the membranes in the brain.

The ESR group wanted to inform doctors and public health authorities about the virus because of the serious diseases it can cause when children are infected. Scientists have suggested testing for HPeV3 in Australia and New Zealand. It is already being done in the U.S., Japan, Europe and Australia for rare and unexplained cases involving a serious illness. Stuff.co reported that future diagnostic tests to help detect the virus will be developed by the ESR, Ministry of Health and the District Health Board.

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