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Enterovirus 71 Infection May Cause Neurological Defects

Virus should possibly be added to list of emerging infections

WEDNESDAY, March 21 (HealthDay News) -- Children infected with enterovirus 71 who show central nervous system involvement and cardiopulmonary failure may experience neurological sequelae, delayed neurodevelopment and reduced cognitive functioning, according to a report in the March 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Luan-Yin Chang, M.D., Ph.D., from the National Taiwan University in Taipei, and colleagues conducted a follow-up of 142 children after enterovirus 71 infection with central nervous system involvement to determine the long-term neurologic and psychiatric effects of the infection.

The researchers found that up to 56 percent of patients with poliomyelitis-like syndrome or encephalomyelitis had sequelae involving limb weakness and atrophy. The rate increased to 64 percent for those with added cardiopulmonary failure, with many of these patients requiring a feeding tube and ventilator support. Delayed neurodevelopment increased from 5 percent to 75 percent for those with central nervous system involvement, without or with cardiopulmonary failure, respectively. Cognitive measures also were lower for those with added cardiopulmonary failure.

"It would be prudent to add enterovirus 71 to the list of emerging infections that threaten us, develop a plan to respond to an outbreak, and take the first steps toward developing a vaccine," John F. Modlin, M.D., from the Dartmouth Medical School in Lebanon, N.H., writes in an accompanying editorial.

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