55 infants contract potentially deadly disease in Queensland

Fifty-five newborn babies have been infected with a potentially fatal virus, following an outbreak of the rare condition.

The respiratory and gastrointestinal infection parechovirus has spread through Brisbane and the Gold Coast, causing symptoms such as lethargy, diarrhoea, high temperatures and loss of appetite.

Two babies from Toowoomba who ended up in intensive care, almost died after contracting the virus in January. One infant required her chest to be cut open as well as painful spinal taps.

The virus was first reported in Brisbane in September, but there have been several other cases reported on the Gold Coast, as well as Toowoomba, Townsville, Mackay and Bundaberg, according to The Courier Mail.

There is currently no specific treatment for the deadly and contagious disease, which is spread by direct contact with nose and throat discharges, including saliva or nasal mucus, sneezing and coughing, as well as faeces.

The virus can cause rashes, irritability, fever and diarrhoea. In severe cases it can cause hepatitis or encephalitis.

Experts warn good hygiene is the best way of protecting infants, such as washing hands with soap and water after going to the toilet, before eating, after wiping noses, and after changing nappies or soiled clothing.

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