CURRENT Diagnosis and Treatment Pediatrics, (Current Pediatric Diagnosis & Treatment) 22nd Edition

40. Infections: Viral & Rickettsial

Myron J. Levin, MD

Adriana Weinberg, MD


Viruses cause most pediatric infections. Mixed viral or viral-bacterial infections of the respiratory and intestinal tracts are very common, as is prolonged asymptomatic shedding of some viruses in childhood, especially in young children. Thus, the detection of a virus is not always proof that it is the cause of a given illness. Viruses are often a predisposing factor for bacterial respiratory infections (eg, otitis, sinusitis, and pneumonia).

Many respiratory and herpesviruses can now be detected within 24–48 hours by combining culture and monoclonal antibody techniques (“rapid culture technique”) or through antigen or nucleic acid detection techniques. These techniques are more rapid than isolation of viruses in tissue culture and in most cases are equally sensitive or more so. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of viral genes has led to recognition of previously undetected infections. New diagnostic tests have changed some basic concepts about viral diseases and made diagnosis of viral infections both more certain and more complex. Only laboratories with excellent quality-control procedures should be used, and the results of new tests must be interpreted cautiously. The availability of specific antiviral agents increases the value of early diagnosis for some serious viral infections. Table 40–1 lists viruses associated with common clinical signs, and Table 40–2 lists diagnostic tests. The viral diagnostic laboratory should be contacted for details regarding specimen collection, handling, and shipping. Table 40–3 lists common causes of red rashes in children that should be considered in the differential diagnosis of certain viral illnesses.

Table 40–1. Some viral causes of clinical syndromes.


Table 40–2. Diagnostic tests for viral infections.



Table 40–3. Some red rashes in children.




Many viral infections can cause either upper or lower respiratory tract signs and symptoms, sometimes both in the same patient. Those that produce a predominance of these signs and symptoms are described in the text that follows. Many so-called respiratory viruses can also produce distinct nonrespiratory disease (eg, enteritis or cystitis or myocarditis caused by adenoviruses; parotitis caused by parainfluenza viruses). Respiratory viruses can cause disease in any area of the respiratory tree. Thus, they can cause coryza, pharyngitis, sinusitis, tracheitis, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia—although certain viruses tend to be closely associated with one anatomic area (eg, parainfluenza with croup, respiratory syncytial virus [RSV] with bronchiolitis) or discrete epidemics (eg, influenza, RSV, parainfluenza). Thus it is impossible on clinical grounds to be certain of the specific viral cause of an infection in a given child. This information, which is provided by the virology laboratory, is often important for epidemiologic, therapeutic, and preventive reasons. In immunocompromised patients these annoying, but otherwise benign, viruses can cause severe pneumonia.


The common cold syndrome (also called upper respiratory infection) is characterized by combinations of runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, tearing, cough, and sneezing. Low-grade fever may be present. The causal agent is usually not sought or determined. Epidemiologic studies indicate that rhinoviruses, which are the most common cause (30%–40%; much more in some series), are present throughout the year, but are more prevalent in the colder months in temperate climates. Adenoviruses also cause colds in all seasons and epidemics are common. Respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza viruses, human metapneumovirus, and influenza viruses cause the cold syndrome during epidemics from late fall through winter. Multiple strains of coronaviruses account for 5%–10% of colds in winter. Equally prevalent in aggregate are other newly identified respiratory viruses such as the human bocavirus (a parvovirus) and several polyomaviruses. The precise role of these newly discovered viruses in childhood disease is under study. Enteroviruses cause the “summer cold.” One outcome of the common cold is morbidity continuing for 5–7 days. It is also likely that changes in respiratory epithelium, local mucosal swelling, and altered local immunity are sometimes the precursors of more severe illnesses such as otitis media, pneumonia, and sinusitis. During and following a cold, the bacterial flora changes and bacteria are found in normally sterile areas of the upper airway. Asthma attacks are frequently provoked by any of the viruses that cause the common cold. These “cold viruses” are a common cause of lower respiratory tract infection in young children. There is no evidence that antibiotics will prevent complications of the common cold, and the unjustified widespread use of antibiotics for cold symptoms has contributed to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant respiratory flora.

In 5%–10% of children, symptoms from these virus infections persist for more than 10 days. This overlap with the symptoms of bacterial sinusitis presents a difficult problem for clinicians, especially because colds can produce an abnormal computed tomography (CT) scan of the sinuses. Viruses that cause a minor illness in immunocompetent children, such as rhinoviruses, influenza, RSV, and metapneumovirus, can cause severe lower respiratory disease in immunologically or anatomically compromised children.

There is conflicting evidence that symptomatic relief for children can be achieved with oral antihistamines, decongestants, or cough suppressants. The FDA has recommended that such over-the-counter medications not be used in children less than 2 years old. Topical decongestants provide temporary improvement in nasal symptoms. Vitamin C has not been shown to have a significant preventative or therapeutic role. Zinc therapy of the common cold and prevention with zinc may be effective in adults, but there is great uncertainty about dosing and some adverse effects. Humidified air and garlic do not alter the course of colds.

De Sutter AI et al: Oral antihistamine-decongestant-analgesic combinations for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012;2:CD004976 [PMID: 22336807].

Greenber SB: Update on rhinovirus and coronavirus infections. Sem Resp Crit Care Med 2011;32(4):433 [PMID: 21858748].

Olenec JP et al: Weekly monitoring of children with asthma for infections and illness during common cold seasons. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010;125(5):1001 [PMID: 20392488].

Singh M, Das RR: Zinc for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011;2:CD001364 [PMID: 21328251].

Techasaensiri B et al: Viral coinfections in children with invasive pneumococcal disease. Ped Infect Dis J 2010;29:2010 [PMID: 20051928].

Wylie KM et al: Sequence analysis of the human virome in febrile and afebrile children. PLoS ONE 2012;7(6):e27735 [PMID: 22719819].



image Multiple syndromes, depending on the type of adenovirus.

image Upper respiratory infections; most notable is severe pharyngitis with tonsillitis and cervical adenopathy.

image Conjunctivitis.

image Pneumonia.

image Enteric adenoviruses cause mild diarrheal illnesses.

image Definitive diagnosis by antigen detection, PCR, or culture.

There are 57 types of adenoviruses, which account for 5%–15% of all respiratory illnesses in childhood, usually pharyngitis or tracheitis, but including 5% of childhood lower respiratory tract infections. Adenoviral infections, which are common early in life (most prior to age 2 years), occur 3–10 days after exposure to respiratory droplets or fomites. Enteric adenoviruses are an important cause of childhood diarrhea. Epidemic respiratory disease from adenoviruses occurs in winter and spring, especially in closed environments such as day care centers and institutions. Because of latent infection in lymphoid tissue, asymptomatic shedding from the respiratory or intestinal tract is common.

Specific Adenoviral Syndromes

A. Pharyngitis

Pharyngitis is the most common adenoviral disease, and the most common viral cause of severe pharyngitis in children. Fever and adenopathy are common. Tonsillitis may be exudative. Rhinitis and an influenza-like systemic illness may be present. Laryngotracheitis or bronchitis may accompany pharyngitis.

B. Pharyngoconjunctival Fever

Conjunctivitis may occur alone and be prolonged, but most often is associated with preauricular adenopathy, fever, pharyngitis, and cervical adenopathy. Foreign body sensation in the eye and other symptoms last less than a week. Lower respiratory symptoms are uncommon.

C. Epidemic Keratoconjunctivitis

Symptoms are severe conjunctivitis with punctate keratitis and occasionally visual impairment. A foreign body sensation, photophobia, and swelling of conjunctiva and eyelids are characteristic. Preauricular adenopathy and subconjunctival hemorrhage are common.

D. Pneumonia

Severe pneumonia may occur at all ages. It is especially common in young children (age < 3 years). Chest radiographs show bilateral peribronchial and patchy ground-glass interstitial infiltrates in the lower lobes. Symptoms persist for 2–4 weeks. Adenoviral pneumonia can be necrotizing and cause permanent lung damage, especially bronchiectasis. A pertussis-like syndrome with typical cough and lymphocytosis can occur with lower respiratory tract infection. A new variant of adenovirus serotype 14 can cause unusually severe, sometimes fatal pneumonia in children and adults.

E. Rash

A diffuse morbilliform (rarely petechial) rash resembling measles, rubella, or roseola may be present. Koplik spots are absent.

F. Diarrhea

Enteric adenoviruses (types 40 and 41) cause 3%–5% of cases of short-lived diarrhea in afebrile children, especially in those less than 4 years old.

G. Mesenteric Lymphadenitis

Fever and abdominal pain may mimic appendicitis. Pharyngitis is often associated. Adenovirus-induced adenopathy may be a factor in appendicitis and intussusception.

H. Other Syndromes

Immunosuppressed patients, including neonates, may develop severe or fatal pulmonary or gastrointestinal infections or multisystem disease. Hemorrhagic cystitis can be a serious problem in immunocompromised children. Other rare complications that can occur in the immune competent child include encephalitis, hepatitis, and myocarditis. Adenoviruses have been implicated in the syndrome of idiopathic myocardiopathy.

image Laboratory & Diagnostic Studies

Diagnosis can be made by conventional culture of conjunctival, respiratory, or stool specimens, but several days to weeks are required. Viral culture using the rapid culture technique with immunodiagnostic reagents detects adenovirus in 48 hours. Adenovirus infection can also be diagnosed using these reagents directly on respiratory secretions. This is quicker, but less sensitive, than the culture methods. PCR is an important, relatively rapid and sensitive diagnostic method for adenovirus infections. Special cells are needed to isolate enteric adenoviruses. ELISA tests rapidly detect enteric adenoviruses in diarrheal specimens. Respiratory adenovirus infections can be detected retrospectively by comparing acute and convalescent sera, but this is not helpful during an acute illness.

image Treatment

There is no specific treatment for adenovirus infections. Intravenous immuno globulin (IVIG) may be tried in immunocompromised patients with severe pneumonia. There are anecdotal reports of successful treatment of immunocompromised patients with cidofovir, which inhibits adenovirus in vitro.

Lynch JP III, Fishbein M, Echavarria M: Adenovirus. Sem Resp Critical Care Med 2011;32(4):494 [PMID: 21859752].

Pavia AT: Viral infections of the lower respiratory tract: old viruses, new viruses, and the role of diagnosis. Clin Infect Dis 2011;52(Suppl 4):S284 [PMID: 21460286].

Tebruegge M, Curtis N: Adenovirus: an overview for pediatric infectious diseases specialists. Ped Infect Dis J 2012;31(6):626 [PMID: 22592487].



image Fever, cough, pharyngitis, malaise, congestion.

image Pneumonia.

image Encephalitis.

image Seasonal: late fall through mid-spring.

image Detection of virus, viral antigens, or nucleic acid in respiratory secretions.

Symptomatic infections are common in children because they lack immunologic experience with influenza viruses. Infection rates in children are greater than in adults and are instrumental in initiating community outbreaks. Epidemics occur in fall and winter. Three main types of influenza viruses (A/H1N1, A/H3N2, B) cause most human epidemics, with antigenic drift ensuring a supply of susceptible hosts of all ages. In recent years, avian influenza A/H5N1 has caused isolated human outbreaks in Asia that are associated with high rates of hospitalization and death. A swine-origin influenza A/H1N1 initiated a human pandemic in the spring of 2009. Almost 50 million Americans were infected with this virus in 2009. Illnesses caused by this virus tend to be more severe in older children and young adults. In addition, the rates of hospitalization and death are higher than typically observed with seasonal influenza.

image Clinical Findings

Spread of influenza occurs by way of airborne respiratory secretions. The incubation period is 2–7 days.

A. Symptoms and Signs

Influenza infection in older children and adults produces a characteristic syndrome of sudden onset of high fever, severe myalgia, headache, and chills. These symptoms overshadow the associated coryza, pharyngitis, and cough. Usually absent are rash, marked conjunctivitis, adenopathy, exudative pharyngitis, and dehydrating enteritis. Fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain are common in young children. Infants may develop a sepsis-like illness and apnea. Chest examination is usually unremarkable. Unusual clinical findings include croup (most severe with type A influenza), exacerbation of asthma, myositis (especially calf muscles), myocarditis, parotitis, encephalopathy (distinct from Reye syndrome), nephritis, and a transient maculopapular rash. Acute illness lasts 2–5 days. Cough and fatigue may last several weeks. Viral shedding may persist for several weeks in young children.

B. Laboratory Findings

The leukocyte count is normal to low, with variable shift. Influenza infections may be more difficult to recognize in children than in adults even during epidemics, and therefore a specific laboratory test is highly recommended. The virus can be found in respiratory secretions by direct fluorescent antibody staining of nasopharyngeal epithelial cells, ELISA, optic immunoassay (OIA), and PCR. PCR has the highest sensitivity and specificity, close to 100%, and is rapidly becoming the preferred test. It can also be cultured within 3–7 days from pharyngeal swabs or throat washings. Many laboratories use the rapid culture technique by centrifuging specimens onto cultured cell layers and detecting viral antigen after 48 hours. Other body fluids or tissues (except lung) rarely yield the virus in culture and are more appropriately tested by PCR, which, due to its high sensitivity, can increase influenza detection in respiratory specimens. A late diagnosis may be made with paired serology, using hemagglutination inhibition assays.

C. Imaging

The chest radiograph is nonspecific; it may show hyperaeration, peribronchial thickening, diffuse interstitial infiltrates, or bronchopneumonia in severe cases. Hilar nodes are not enlarged. Pleural effusion is rare in uncomplicated influenza.

image Differential Diagnosis

The following may be considered: all other respiratory viruses, Mycoplasma pneumoniae or Chlamydia pneumoniae (longer incubation period, prolonged illness), streptococcal pharyngitis (pharyngeal exudate or petechiae, adenitis, no cough), bacterial sepsis (petechial or purpuric rash may occur), toxic shock syndrome (rash, hypotension), and rickettsial infections (rash, different season, insect exposure). High fever, the nature of preceding or concurrent illness in family members, and the presence of influenza in the community are distinguishing features from parainfluenza or RSV infections.

image Complications & Sequelae

Lower respiratory tract symptoms are most common in children younger than age 5 years. Hospitalization rates are highest in children younger than 2 years. Influenza can cause croup in these children. Secondary bacterial infections (classically staphylococcal) of the middle ear, sinuses, or lungs (pneumococcal was common in the swine-origin H1N1 pandemic of 2009) are common. Of the viral infections that precede Reye syndrome, varicella and influenza (usually type B) are most notable. During an influenza outbreak, ill children who develop protracted vomiting or irrational behavior should be evaluated for Reye syndrome. Influenza can also cause viral or postviral encephalitis, with cerebral symptoms much more prominent than those of the accompanying respiratory infection. Although the myositis is usually mild and resolves promptly, severe rhabdomyolysis and renal failure have been reported.

Children with underlying cardiopulmonary, metabolic, neuromuscular, or immunosuppressive disease may develop severe viral pneumonia. During the H1N1 pandemic, new high risk conditions were described: obesity and the first 2 weeks of postpartum.

image Prevention

The trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine is moderately protective in older children (see Chapter 10). A live attenuated influenza vaccine (FluMist) is significantly more efficacious in children and is currently recommended for immunocompetent children 2 years of age or older. It is currently recommended that all children 6 months and older, and adults should be immunized with one of the available influenza vaccines, and that two doses be administered during the first year of immunization to children less than 9 years old. There is an ongoing effort to broaden the influenza B coverage by adding an additional influenza B strain to the seasonal vaccine. Quadrivalent live attenuated and inactivated influenza vaccines have been approved by the FDA; the quadrivalent live vaccine will become available for the 2013–2014 season. Widespread resistance to adamantanes of seasonal influenza A H3N2 and pandemic influenza A H1N1/2009 has made these drugs obsolete for the treatment and prevention of influenza. For prophylaxis oseltamivir is the most widely used agent (children < 15 kg, 30 mg daily; those 15–23 kg, 45 mg daily; those 23–40 kg, 60 mg daily; and those > 40 kg, 75 mg daily). Zanamivir (10 mg daily inhalations) can also be used in children older than age 5 years. Chemoprophylaxis should be considered during an epidemic for high-risk children who cannot be immunized or who have not yet developed immunity (about 6 weeks after primary vaccination or 2 weeks after a booster dose). For outbreak prophylaxis, therapy should be maintained for 2 weeks or more and for 1 week after the last case of influenza is diagnosed.

image Treatment & Prognosis

Treatment consists of general support and management of pulmonary complications, especially bacterial superinfections. Antivirals are of benefit against seasonal influenza in immunocompetent hosts if begun within 48 hours after symptom onset. Treatment duration is 5 days and the doses are twice those used for prophylaxis (see earlier). Studies in immunocompromised patients during the 2009/2010 pandemic showed that oseltamivir was useful in this population even when initiated later than 2 days after the onset of disease.

Recovery is usually complete unless severe cardiopulmonary or neurologic damage has occurred. Fatal cases occur in very young infants, immunodeficient and anatomically compromised children, pregnant women including the first 2 weeks of postpartum, and obese individuals.

Effective treatment or prophylaxis of influenza in children markedly reduces the incidence of acute otitis media and antibiotic usage during the flu season.

Prevention and control of influenza. Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Recomm Rep 2012;61(32):613–618.

Hsu J et al: Antivirals for treatment of influenza: a systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. Ann Intern Med 2012;156:21–24 [PMID: 22371849].



image Fever, nasal congestion, sore throat, cough.

image Croup.

image Detection of live virus, antigens, or nucleic acid in respiratory secretions.

Parainfluenza viruses (types 1–4) are the most important cause of croup. Most infants are infected with type 3 within the first 3 years of life, often in the first year. Type 3 appears annually, with a peak in the spring or summer. Infection with types 1 and 2 is experienced gradually over the first 5 years of life, usually during outbreaks in the fall; most primary infections are symptomatic and frequently involve the lower respiratory tract. The concept that parainfluenza 4 is less pathogenic is currently being reevaluated. Its epidemiology seems to overlap with that of parainfluenza 3.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

Clinical diseases include febrile upper respiratory infection (especially in older children with reexposure), laryngitis, tracheobronchitis, croup, and bronchiolitis (second most common cause after RSV). The relative incidence of these manifestations is type-specific. Parainfluenza viruses (especially type 1) cause 65% of cases of croup in young children, 25% of tracheobronchitis, and 50% of laryngitis. Croup is characterized by a barking cough, inspiratory stridor (especially when agitated), and hoarseness. Type 2 parainfluenza is more likely to cause bronchiolitis. Parainfluenza virus can cause pneumonia in infants and immunodeficient children, and causes particularly high mortality among stem cell recipients. Onset is acute. Most children are febrile. Symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection often accompany croup.

B. Laboratory Findings

Diagnosis is often based on clinical findings. These viruses can be identified by conventional or rapid culture techniques (48 hours), by direct immunofluorescence on nasopharyngeal epithelial cells in respiratory secretions (< 3 hours), or by PCR (< 24 hours).

image Differential Diagnosis

Parainfluenza-induced respiratory syndromes are difficult to distinguish from those caused by other respiratory viruses. Viral croup must be distinguished from epiglottitis caused by Haemophilus influenzae (abrupt onset, toxicity and high fever, drooling, dyspnea, little cough, left shift of blood smear, and a history of inadequate immunization).

image Treatment

No specific therapy or vaccine is available. Croup management is discussed in Chapter 19. Ribavirin is active in vitro and has been used in immunocompromised children, but its efficacy is unproved.

Ruuskanen O, Lahti E, Jennings LC, Murdoch DR: Viral pneumonia. Lancet 2011;377(9773):1264 [PMID: 21435708].



image Diffuse wheezing and tachypnea following upper respiratory symptoms in an infant (bronchiolitis).

image Epidemics in late fall to early spring (January–February peak).

image Hyperinflation on chest radiograph.

image Detection of RSV antigen or nucleic acid in nasal secretions.

image General Considerations

RSV is the most important cause of lower respiratory tract illness in young children, accounting for more than 70% of cases of bronchiolitis and 40% of cases of pneumonia. RSV is a ubiquitous virus of early childhood. Almost all children develop upper respiratory symptoms; of these 20%–30% will develop lower respiratory infection. Outbreaks occur annually, and attack rates are high; 60% of children are infected in the first year of life, and 90% by age 2 years. During peak season (cold weather in temperate climates), the clinical diagnosis of RSV infection in infants with bronchiolitis is as accurate as most laboratory tests. Despite the presence of serum antibody, reinfection is common. Two distinct genotypes can co-circulate or one may predominate in a community. Yearly shift in prevalence of these genotypes is a partial explanation for reinfection. However, reinfection generally causes only upper respiratory symptoms in anatomically normal children. Immunosuppressed patients may develop progressive severe pneumonia. Children with congenital heart disease with increased pulmonary blood flow, children with chronic lung disease (eg, cystic fibrosis), and premature infants younger than age 6 months (especially when they have chronic lung disease of prematurity) are also at higher risk for severe illness. No vaccine is available.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

Initial symptoms are those of upper respiratory infection. Low-grade fever may be present. The classic disease is bronchiolitis, characterized by diffuse wheezing, variable fever, cough, tachypnea, difficulty feeding, and, in severe cases, cyanosis. Hyperinflation, crackles, prolonged expiration, wheezing, and retractions are present. The liver and spleen may be palpable because of lung hyperinflation, but are not enlarged. The disease usually lasts 3–7 days in previously healthy children. Fever is present for 2–4 days; it does not correlate with pulmonary symptoms and may be absent during the height of lung involvement.

Apnea, poor feeding, and lethargy may be presenting manifestations, especially in premature infants, in the first few months of life. Apnea usually resolves after a few days, often being replaced by obvious signs of bronchiolitis.

RSV infection in older children is more likely to cause tracheobronchitis or upper respiratory tract infection. Exceptions are immunocompromised children and those with severe chronic lung or heart disease, who may have especially severe or prolonged primary infections and are subject to additional attacks of severe pneumonitis.

B. Laboratory Findings

Rapid detection of RSV antigen in nasal or pulmonary secretions by fluorescent antibody staining or ELISA requires only several hours and is more than 90% sensitive and specific. Real-time PCR is more sensitive than antigen testing, but is more expensive. Often the PCR is multiplexed to detect four or more viral respiratory pathogens in the same assay. Rapid tissue culture methods take 48 hours and have comparable sensitivity, but require a carefully collected and handled specimen.

C. Imaging

Diffuse hyperinflation and peribronchiolar thickening are most common; atelectasis and patchy infiltrates also occur in uncomplicated infection, but pleural effusions are rare. Consolidation (usually subsegmental) occurs in 25% of children with lower respiratory tract disease.

image Differential Diagnosis

Although almost all cases of bronchiolitis are due to RSV during an epidemic, other viruses, including parainfluenza, rhinovirus, and especially human metapneumovirus, cannot be excluded. Mixed infections with other viruses, chlamydiae, or bacteria can occur. Wheezing may be due to asthma, a foreign body, or other airway obstruction. RSV infection may closely resemble chlamydial pneumonitis when fine crackles are present and fever and wheezing are not prominent. The two may also coexist. Cystic fibrosis may present with respiratory symptoms resembling RSV infection; a positive family history or failure to thrive associated with GI symptoms, hyponatremia or hypoalbuminemia should prompt a sweat chloride test. Pertussis should also be considered in this age group, especially if cough is prominent and the infant is younger than age 6 months. A markedly elevated leukocyte count should suggest bacterial superinfection (neutrophilia) or pertussis (lymphocytosis).

image Complications

RSV commonly infects the middle ear. Symptomatic otitis media is more likely when secondary bacterial infection is present (usually due to pneumococci or H influenzae). This is the most common complication (10%–20%) of RSV infection. Bacterial pneumonia complicates only 0.5%–1% of hospitalized patients. Sudden exacerbations of fever and leukocytosis should suggest bacterial infection. Respiratory failure or apnea may require mechanical ventilation, but occurs in less than 2% of hospitalized previously healthy full-term infants. Cardiac failure may occur as a complication of pulmonary disease or myocarditis. RSV commonly causes exacerbations of asthma. Nosocomial RSV infection is so common during outbreaks that elective hospitalization or surgery, especially for those with underlying illness, should be postponed. Well-designed hospital programs to prevent nosocomial spread are imperative (see next section).

image Prevention & Treatment

Children who are very hypoxic or cannot feed because of respiratory distress must be hospitalized and given humidified oxygen as directed by oxygen saturation, and given tube or intravenous feedings. Antibiotics, decongestants, and expectorants are of no value in routine infections. RSV-infected children should be kept in respiratory isolation. Cohorting ill infants in respiratory isolation during peak season (with or without rapid diagnostic attempts) and emphasizing good hand washing may greatly decrease nosocomial transmission.

The utility of bronchodilator therapy alone has not been consistently demonstrated. Often a trial of bronchodilator therapy is given to determine response and is subsequently discontinued if there is no improvement. Racemic epinephrine occasionally works when β-agonists fail. This therapeutic trial should only be undertaken in a hospital setting and care taken to observe children for an extended period after a positive response. The use of corticosteroids is also controversial in RSV bronchiolitis without complicating features such as asthma and chronic lung disease of prematurity. A meta-analysis of numerous studies of corticosteroid therapy indicated a significant effect on hospital stay, especially in those most ill at the time of treatment, but use of a single dose of corticosteroids in an outpatient setting had no lasting effect on respiratory status and did not prevent hospitalization. The combined use of racemic epinephrine and 5 days of oral dexamethasone significantly reduced hospitalization in one trial, but needs more evaluation before it can be recommended.

Ribavirin is the only licensed antiviral therapy used for RSV infection. It is given by continuous aerosolization. It is rarely used in infants without significant anatomic or immunologic defects. At best, there is a very modest effect on disease severity in immunocompetent infants with no underlying anatomic abnormality. Even in high-risk infants, a favorable clinical response to ribavirin therapy was not demonstrated in several studies, although some data suggest that it might be more efficacious if initiated early in the illness. Nevertheless, ribavirin is sometimes used in severely ill children who are immunologically or anatomically compromised and in those with severe cardiac disease.

Monthly intramuscular administration of humanized RSV monoclonal antibody is now recommended to prevent severe disease in selected high-risk patients during epidemic periods. Monthly administration should be considered during the RSV season for high-risk children (described in Chapter 10). Use of passive immunization for immunocompromised children is logical but not established. RSV antibody is not effective for treatment of established infection.

image Prognosis

Although mild bronchiolitis does not produce long-term problems, 30%–40% of patients hospitalized with this infection will wheeze later in childhood, and RSV infection in infancy may be an important precursor to asthma. Chronic restrictive lung disease and bronchiolitis obliterans are rare sequelae.

Geevarghese B, Simoes EA: Antibodies for prevention and treatment of respiratory syncytial virus infections in children. Antivir Ther 2012;17(1 Pt B):201 [PMID: 22311607].

Hall CB: The burgeoning burden of respiratory syncytial virus among children. Infect Disord Drug Targets 2012;12(2):92 [PMID: 22335498].

Krilov LR: Respiratory syncytial virus disease: update on treatment and prevention. Expert Rev Antiinfect Ther 2011;9(1): 27–32 [PMID: 21171875].



image Cough, coryza, sore throat.

image Bronchiolitis.

image Detection of viral antigens or nucleic acid in respiratory secretions.

image General Considerations

Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) is a common agent of respiratory tract infections that is very similar to RSV in epidemiologic and clinical characteristics. Like RSV, parainfluenza, mumps, and measles, hMPV belongs to the paramyxovirus family. Humans are its only known reservoir. Seroepidemiologic surveys indicate that the virus has worldwide distribution. More than 90% of children contract hMPV infection by age 5 years, typically during late autumn through early spring outbreaks. hMPV accounts for 15%–25% of the cases of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children younger than 2 years. Older children and adults can also develop symptomatic infection.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

The most common symptoms are fever, cough, rhinorrhea, and sore throat. Bronchiolitis and pneumonia occur in 40%–70% of the children who acquire hMPV before the age of 2 years. Asymptomatic infection is uncommon. Other manifestations include otitis, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, and myalgia. Acute wheezing has been associated with hMPV in children of all ages, raising the possibility that this virus, like RSV, might trigger reactive airway disease. Dual infection with hMPV and RSV or other respiratory viruses seems to be a common occurrence and may increase morbidity and mortality.

B. Laboratory Findings

The virus has very selective tissue culture tropism, which accounts for its late discovery in spite of its presence in archived specimens from the mid-1950s. The preferred method of diagnosis is PCR performed on respiratory specimens. Rapid shell vial culture is an acceptable, albeit less sensitive, alternative. Antibody tests are available, but are most appropriately used for epidemiologic studies.

C. Imaging

Lower respiratory tract infection frequently shows hyperinflation and patchy pneumonitis on chest radiographs.

image Treatment & Prognosis

No antiviral therapy is available to treat hMPV. Ribavirin has in vitro activity against human metapneumovirus, but there are no data to support its therapeutic value. Children with lower respiratory tract disease may require hospitalization and ventilatory support, but less frequently than with RSV-associated bronchiolitis. Duration of hospitalization in hMPV is typically shorter than in RSV.

Edwards KM et al: Burden of human metapneumovirus infection in young children. N Engl J Med 2013;368:633 [PMID:].

Feuillet F, Lina B, Rosa-Calatrava M, Boivin G: Ten years of human metapneumovirus research. J Clin Virol 2012;53(2):97 [PMID: 22074934].

Kroll JL, Weinberg A: Human metapneumovirs. Sem Respir Crit Care Med 2011;32(4):447 [PMID: 21858749].



image Acute febrile illness with headache and sore throat.

image Summer–fall epidemics.

image Other common features: rash, nonexudative pharyngitis.

image Common cause of aseptic meningitis.

image Complications: myocarditis, neurologic damage, life-threatening illness in newborns.

Enteroviruses are a major cause of illness in young children. The multiple types have similar nucleic acid and protein components, and may produce identical syndromes, but they differ antigenically, which makes vaccine development impractical and has hindered development of antigen detection and serologic tests. However, common RNA sequences and group antigens have led to diagnostic tests for viral nucleic acid and proteins. A PCR assay is available in many medical centers, but tissue culture is still used in some centers as a diagnostic method for echoviruses, polioviruses, and coxsackie B viruses. Although cultures may turn positive in 2–4 days, the relatively rapid answer obtained with PCR facilitates clinical decisions, particularly in cases of meningoencephalitis and severe unexplained illness in neonates.

Parechoviruses are a genus of the family picornaviruses which were formerly considered to be enteroviruses (echoviruses 22 and 23). It is now realized that these are responsible for a significant number of pediatric infections. Some of the 15 types of parechovirures infect almost every child before the age of 2 years; others before age 5 years.

Transmission of enteroviruses is fecal-oral or from upper respiratory secretions. Multiple enteroviruses circulate in the community at any one time; summer–fall outbreaks are common in temperate climates, but infections are seen year-round. After poliovirus, coxsackie B virus is most virulent, followed by echovirus. Neurologic, cardiac, and overwhelming neonatal infections are the most severe forms of illness.


Accompanied by nonspecific upper respiratory or enteric symptoms, the sudden onset of fever and irritability in infants or young children is often enteroviral in origin, especially in late summer and fall. More than 90% of enteroviral infections are not distinctive. Occasionally a petechial rash is seen; more often a diffuse maculopapular or morbilliform eruption (often prominent on palms and soles) occurs on the second to fourth day of fever. Rapid recovery is the rule. More than one febrile enteroviral illness can occur in the same patient in one season. The leukocyte count is usually normal. Infants, because of fever and irritability, may undergo an evaluation for bacteremia or meningitis and be hospitalized to rule out sepsis. Approximately half of these infants have aseptic meningitis. In the summer months enterovirus infection is more likely than human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) to cause an acute medical visit for fever. Duration of illness is 4–5 days.

Romero JR, Selvarangan R: The human parechoviruses: an overview. Adv Pediatr 2011;58(1):65 [PMID: 21736976].


1. Febrile Illness with Pharyngitis

This syndrome is most common in older children, who complain of headache, sore throat, myalgia, and abdominal discomfort. The usual duration is 3–4 days. Vesicles or papules may be seen in the pharynx. There is no exudate. Occasionally, enteroviruses are the cause of croup, bronchitis, or pneumonia. They may also exacerbate asthma.

2. Herpangina

Herpangina is characterized by an acute onset of fever and posterior pharyngeal grayish white vesicles that quickly form ulcers (< 20 in number), often linearly arranged on the posterior palate, uvula, and tonsillar pillars. Bilateral faucial ulcers may also be seen. Dysphagia, vomiting, abdominal pain, and anorexia also occur and, rarely, parotitis or vaginal ulcers. Symptoms disappear in 4–5 days. The epidemic form is due to several coxsackie A viruses; coxsackie B viruses and echoviruses cause sporadic cases.

The differential diagnosis includes primary herpes simplex gingivostomatitis (ulcers are more prominent anteriorly, and gingivitis is present), aphthous stomatitis (fever absent, recurrent episodes, anterior lesions), trauma, hand-foot-and-mouth disease (see later discussion), and Vincent angina (painful gingivitis spreading from the gum line, underlying dental disease). If the enanthema is missed, tonsillitis might be incorrectly diagnosed.

3. Acute Lymphonodular Pharyngitis

Coxsackievirus A10 has been associated with a febrile pharyngitis characterized by nonulcerative yellow-white posterior pharyngeal papules in the same distribution as herpangina. The duration is 1–2 weeks; therapy is supportive.

4. Pleurodynia (Bornholm Disease, Epidemic Myalgia)

Caused by coxsackie B virus (epidemic form) or many nonpolio enteroviruses (sporadic form), pleurodynia is associated with an abrupt onset of unilateral or bilateral spasmodic pain of variable intensity over the lower ribs or upper abdomen. Associated symptoms include headache, fever, vomiting, myalgias, and abdominal and neck pain. Physical findings include fever, chest muscle tenderness, decreased thoracic excursion, and occasionally a friction rub. The chest radiograph is normal. Hematologic tests are nondiagnostic. The illness generally lasts less than 1 week.

This is a disease of muscle, but the differential diagnosis includes bacterial pneumonia, bacterial and tuberculous effusion, and endemic fungal infections (all excluded radio-graphically and by auscultation), costochondritis (no fever or other symptoms), and a variety of abdominal problems, especially those causing diaphragmatic irritation.

There is no specific therapy. Potent analgesic agents and chest splinting alleviate the pain.

Tagarakis GI et al: Bornholm disease—a pediatric clinical entity that can alert a thoracic surgeon. J Paed Child Health 2011;47(4):242 [PMID: 21501275].


The rash can be macular, maculopapular, urticarial, scarlatiniform, petechial, or vesicular. One of the most characteristic is that of hand-foot-and-mouth disease (caused by coxsackieviruses, especially types A5, A10, and A16), in which vesicles or red papules are found on the tongue, oral mucosa, hands, and feet. Often they appear near the nails and on the heels. Associated fever, sore throat, and malaise are mild. The rash may appear when fever abates, simulating roseola.

Cardiac Involvement

Myocarditis and pericarditis can be caused by a number of nonpolio enteroviruses, particularly type B coxsackieviruses. Most commonly, upper respiratory symptoms are followed by substernal pain, dyspnea, and exercise intolerance. A friction rub or gallop may be detected. Ultrasound will define ventricular dysfunction or pericardial effusion, and electrocardiography may show pericarditis or ventricular irritability. Creatine phosphokinase may be elevated. The disease may be mild or fatal; most children recover completely. In infants, other organs may be involved at the same time; in older patients, cardiac disease is usually the sole manifestation (see Chapter 20 for therapy). Enteroviral RNA is present in cardiac tissue in some cases of dilated cardiomyopathy or myocarditis; the significance of this finding is unknown. Epidemics of enterovirus 71, which occur in Asia, as well as sporadic cases in the United States, are associated with severe left ventricular dysfunction and pulmonary edema following typical mucocutaneous manifestations of enterovirus infection. Enterovirus 71 also can cause isolated severe neurologic disease or neurologic disease in combination with myocardial disease.

Badran SA, Midgley S, Andersen P, Bottigner B: Clinical and virological features of enterovirus 71 infection in Denmark, 2005–2008. Scand J Infect Dis 2011;43(8):642 [PMID: 21526904].

Ooi MH et al: Clinical features, diagnosis, and management of enterovirus 71. Lancet Neurol 2010;9(11):1097 [PMID: 20965438].

Simpson KE, Canter CE: Acute myocarditis in children. Expert Opin Cardiovasc Ther 2011;9(6):771 [PMID: 21714608].

Severe Neonatal Infection

Sporadic and nosocomial nursery cases of severe systemic enteroviral disease occur. Clinical manifestations include combinations of fever, rash, pneumonitis, encephalitis, hepatitis, gastroenteritis, myocarditis, pancreatitis, and myositis. The infants, usually younger than 1 week, may appear septic, with cyanosis, dyspnea, and seizures. The differential diagnosis includes bacterial and herpes simplex infections, necrotizing enterocolitis, other causes of heart or liver failure, and metabolic diseases. Diagnosis is suggested by the finding of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) mononuclear pleocytosis and confirmed by the isolation of virus or detection of enteroviral RNA in urine, stool, CSF, or pharynx. Therapy is supportive. IVIG is often administered, but its value is uncertain. Passively acquired maternal antibody may protect newborns from severe disease. For this reason, labor should not be induced in pregnant women near term who have suspected enteroviral disease. Some of these infections are now known to be caused by parechoviruses.

Tebruegge M, Curtis N: Enterovirus infections in neonates. Semin Fetal Neonatal Med 2009;14:222 [PMID: 19303380].



image Inadequate immunization or underlying immune deficiency.

image Headache, fever, muscle weakness.

image Aseptic meningitis.

image Asymmetrical, flaccid paralysis; muscle tenderness and hyperesthesia; intact sensation; late atrophy.

1. Poliomyelitis

image General Considerations

Poliovirus infection is subclinical in 90%–95% of cases; it causes nonspecific febrile illness in about 5% of cases and aseptic meningitis, with or without paralytic disease, in 1%–3%. In endemic areas, most of older children and adults are immune because of prior inapparent infections. Occasional cases in the United States occur in patients who travel to foreign countries or come in contact with visitors from areas that have poliovirus outbreaks. Severe poliovirus infection was a rare complication of OPV (oral poliovirus vaccine) vaccination as a result of reversion of the vaccine virus. The incidence of vaccine-associated paralytic poliomyelitis (VAPP) in the United States was 1:750,000 and 1:2.4 million doses for the first and second dose of OPV, respectively. Although rare, VAPP became more common than wild-type poliomyelitis in the United States in the 1980s. This led to a change in the recommended immunization regimen, substituting inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) for OPV (see Chapter 10).

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

The initial symptoms are fever, myalgia, sore throat, and headache for 2–6 days. In less than 10% of infected children, several symptom-free days are followed by recurrent fever and signs of aseptic meningitis: headache, stiff neck, spinal rigidity, and nausea. Mild cases resolve completely. In only 1%–2% of these children do high fever, severe myalgia, and anxiety portend progression to loss of reflexes and subsequent flaccid paralysis. Sensation remains intact, although hyperesthesia of skin overlying paralyzed muscles is common and pathognomonic.

Paralysis is usually asymmetrical. Proximal limb muscles are more often involved than distal, and lower limb involvement is more common than upper. Bulbar involvement affects swallowing, speech, and cardiorespiratory function and accounts for most deaths. Bladder distention and marked constipation characteristically accompany lower limb paralysis. Paralysis is usually complete by the time the temperature normalizes. Weakness often resolves completely. Atrophy is usually apparent by 4–8 weeks. Most improvement of muscle paralysis occurs within 6 months.

B. Laboratory Findings

In patients with meningeal symptoms, the CSF contains up to several hundred leukocytes (mostly lymphocytes) per μL; the glucose level is normal, and protein concentration is mildly elevated. Poliovirus is easy to grow in cell culture and can be readily differentiated from other enteroviruses. It is rarely isolated from spinal fluid but is often present in the throat and stool for several weeks following infection. Paired serology is also diagnostic. Laboratory methods are available to differentiate wild from attenuated vaccine isolates.

image Differential Diagnosis

Aseptic meningitis due to poliovirus is indistinguishable from that due to other viruses. Paralytic disease in the United States is usually due to nonpolio enteroviruses. Polio may resemble Guillain-Barré syndrome (minimal sensory loss, ascending symmetrical loss of function; minimal pleocytosis, high protein concentration in spinal fluid), polyneuritis (sensory loss), pseudoparalysis due to bone or joint problems (eg, trauma, infection), botulism, or tick paralysis.

image Complications & Sequelae

Complications are the result of the acute and permanent effects of paralysis. Respiratory, pharyngeal, bladder, and bowel malfunction are most critical. Deaths are usually due to complications arising from respiratory dysfunction. Limbs injured near the time of infection, such as by intramuscular injections, excessive prior use, or trauma, tend to be most severely involved and have the worst prognosis for recovery (provocation paralysis).

image Treatment & Prognosis

Therapy is supportive. Bed rest, fever and pain control (heat therapy is helpful), and careful attention to progression of weakness (particularly of respiratory muscles) are important. No intramuscular injections should be given during the acute phase. Intubation or tracheostomy for secretion control and catheter drainage of the bladder may be needed. Assisted ventilation and enteral feeding may also be needed. Disease is worse in adults and pregnant women than in children. Postpolio muscular atrophy occurs in 30%–40% of paralyzed limbs 20–30 years later, characterized by increasing weakness and fasciculations in previously affected, partially recovered limbs.

2. Nonpolio Viral Meningitis

Nonpolio enteroviruses cause over 80% of cases of aseptic meningitis at all ages. In the summer and fall, cases may be seen associated with circulation of multiple neurotropic strains. Nosocomial outbreaks also occur.

image Clinical Findings

The usual enteroviral incubation period is 4–6 days. Because many enteroviral infections are subclinical or not associated with central nervous system (CNS) symptoms, a history of contact with a patient with meningitis is unusual. Neonates may acquire infection from maternal blood, vaginal secretions, or feces at birth; occasionally the mother has had a febrile illness just prior to delivery.

A. Symptoms and Signs

Incidence is much greater in children younger than age 1 year. Onset is usually acute with variable fever, marked irritability, and lethargy in infants. Older children also describe frontal headache, photophobia, and myalgia. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting may occur. The incidence of rash varies with the infecting strain. If rash occurs, it is usually seen after several days of illness and is diffuse, macular or maculopapular, occasionally petechial, but not purpuric. Oropharyngeal vesicles and rash on the palms and soles suggest an enterovirus. The anterior fontanelle may be full. Meningismus may be present. The illness may be biphasic, with nonspecific symptoms and signs preceding those related to the CNS. In older children, it is easier to demonstrate meningeal signs. Seizures are unusual, and focal neurologic findings, which are rare, should lead to a search for an alternative cause. Frank encephalitis, which is uncommon at any age, occurs most often in neonates. Because of the overall frequency of enteroviral disease in children, 5%–10% of all cases of encephalitis of proved viral origin are caused by enteroviruses. Enteroviruses tend to cause less severe encephalitis than other viral agents. However, parechoviruses, which have recently been demonstrated to be a significant cause of aseptic meningitis, sometimes cause white matter defects.

Enterovirus 71 infections that begin with typical mucocutaneous manifestations of enteroviruses can be complicated by severe brainstem encephalitis and polio-like flaccid paralysis. Enterovirus 70 outbreaks have resulted in hemorrhagic conjunctivitis together with paralytic poliomyelitis. Other nonpolio enteroviruses cause sporadic cases of acute motor weakness similar to that seen with poliovirus infection. Children with congenital immune deficiency, especially agammaglobulinemia, are subject to chronic enteroviral meningoencephalitis that is often fatal or associated with severe sequelae.

B. Laboratory Findings

Blood leukocyte counts are often normal. The spinal fluid leukocyte count is 100–1000/μL. Early in the illness, polymorphonuclear cells predominate; a shift to mononuclear cells occurs within 8–36 hours. In about 95% of cases, spinal fluid parameters include a total leukocyte count less than 3000/μL, protein less than 80 mg/dL, and glucose more than 60% of serum values. Marked deviation from any of these findings should prompt consideration of another diagnosis (see following section). The syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone may occur, but is rarely clinically significant.

Culture of CSF may yield an enterovirus within a few days (< 70%). However, PCR for enteroviruses is the most useful diagnostic method in many centers (sensitivity > 90%) and can give an answer within 24–48 hours. Parechoviruses will be detected by most PCR methods, but will be identified as “enterovirus.” Virus may be detected in acellular CSF. Detection of an enterovirus from throat or stool suggests, but does not prove, enteroviral meningitis. Vaccine-strain poliovirus present in feces in infants being evaluated for aseptic meningitis (outside of the United States) may confuse the diagnosis, but can usually be distinguished by growth characteristics.

C. Imaging

Cerebral imaging is not often indicated; if done, it is usually normal. Subdural effusions, infarcts, edema, or focal abnormalities seen in bacterial meningitis are absent except for the rare case of focal encephalitis.

image Differential Diagnosis

The leading cause of aseptic meningitis is enteroviruses, especially in the summer and fall. Other causative viruses are mosquito-borne viruses (flavivirus, bunyavirus). These are usually considered during an investigation of encephalitis, but many of them are more likely to cause isolated meningitis and should be considered when seasonal clusters of viral meningitis occur. Primary herpes simplex infection can cause aseptic meningitis in adolescents who have a genital herpes infection. In neonates, early herpes simplex meningoencephalitis may mimic enteroviral disease (see section on Infections due to Herpesviruses). This is an important alternative diagnosis to exclude because of the need for urgent antiviral therapy. Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus causes meningitis in children in contact with rodents (pet or environmental exposure). Meningitis occurs in some patients at the time of infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Other causes of aseptic meningitis that may resemble enteroviral infection include partially treated bacterial meningitis (recent antibiotic treatment, CSF parameters resembling those seen in bacterial disease and bacterial antigen sometimes present); parameningeal foci of bacterial infection such as brain abscess, subdural empyema, mastoiditis (predisposing factors, glucose level in CSF may be lower, focal neurologic signs, and characteristic imaging); tumors or cysts (malignant cells detected by cytologic examination, a history of neurologic symptoms, higher protein concentration or lower glucose level in CSF); trauma (presence, without exception, of red blood cells, which may be erroneously assumed to be due to traumatic lumbar puncture, but are crenated and fail to clear); vasculitis (other systemic or neurologic signs, found in older children); tuberculous or fungal meningitis (see Chapters 42 and 43); cysticercosis; parainfectious encephalopathies (M pneumoniae, cat-scratch disease, respiratory viruses [especially influenza]); Lyme disease; leptospirosis; and rickettsial diseases.

image Prevention & Treatment

No specific therapy exists. Infants are usually hospitalized, isolated, and treated with fluids and antipyretics. Moderately to severely ill infants are given appropriate antibiotics for bacterial pathogens until cultures are negative for 48–72 hours. This practice is changing, and hospital stay shortened, in areas where the PCR assay for enteroviruses is available. If patients, especially older children, are mildly ill, antibiotics may be withheld and the child observed. The illness usually lasts less than 1 week. Codeine compounds or other strong analgesics may be needed. C-reactive protein and lactate levels are usually low in the CSF of children with viral meningitis; both may be elevated with bacterial infection. With clinical deterioration, repeat lumbar puncture, cerebral imaging, neurologic consultation, and more aggressive diagnostic tests should be considered. Herpesvirus encephalitis is an important consideration in such cases, particularly in infants younger than age 1 month, and often warrants empiric acyclovir therapy until an etiologic diagnosis is made.

image Prognosis

In general, enteroviral meningitis has no significant short-term neurologic or developmental sequelae. Developmental delay may follow severe neonatal infections. Unlike mumps, enterovirus infections rarely cause hearing loss.

Poh CL, Tan EL: Detection of enteroviruses from clinical specimens. Meth Molecular Biol 2011;665:65 [PMID: 21116796].

Rhoades RE et al: Enterovirus infections of the central nervous system. Virology 2011;411(2):288 [PMID: 21251690].




image Grouped vesicles on an erythematous base, typically in or around the mouth or genitals.

image Tender regional adenopathy, especially with primary infection.

image Fever and malaise with primary infection.

image Recurrent episodes in many patients.

image General Considerations

There are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV). Type 1 (HSV-1) causes most cases of oral, skin, and cerebral disease in older children. Type 2 (HSV-2) causes most (> 50%, especially in adolescents and young adults) genital and congenital infections, although HSV-1 has become a much more common cause of infection at these sites. Latent infection is routinely established in sensory ganglia during primary infection. Recurrences may be spontaneous or induced by external events (eg, fever, menstruation, or sunlight) or immunosuppression. Transmission is by direct contact with infected secretions. HSV is very susceptible to antiviral drugs.

Primary infection with HSV-1 often occurs early in childhood, although many adults (20%–50%) never get infected. Primary infection with HSV-1 is subclinical in 80% of cases and causes gingivostomatitis in the remainder. HSV-2, which is transmitted sexually, is also usually (65%) sub-clinical or produces mild, nonspecific symptoms. Infection with one type of HSV may prevent or attenuate clinically apparent infection with the other type, but individuals can be infected at different times with both HSV-1 and HSV-2. Recurrent episodes are due to reactivation of latent HSV.

The source of primary infection is usually an asymptomatic excreter. Most previously infected individuals shed HSV at irregular intervals. At any one time (point prevalence), more than 5% of normal seropositive adults excrete HSV-1 in the saliva; the percentage is higher in recently infected children, and detection of viral DNA exceeds 12%. HSV-2 shedding in genital secretions occurs with a similar or higher point prevalence exceeding 15%, depending on the method of detection (viral isolation vs PCR) and the interval since the initial infection. A history of contact with an active HSV infection is unusual.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

1. Gingivostomatitis—High fever, irritability, and drooling occur in infants. Multiple oral ulcers are seen on the tongue and on the buccal and gingival mucosa, occasionally extending to the pharynx. Pharyngeal ulcers may predominate in older children and adolescents. Diffusely swollen red gums that are friable and bleed easily are typical. Cervical nodes are swollen and tender. Duration is 7–14 days. Herpangina, aphthous stomatitis, thrush, and Vincent angina should be excluded.

2. Vulvovaginitis or urethritis (See Chapter 44)—Genital herpes (especially HSV-2) in a prepubertal child should suggest sexual abuse. Vesicles or painful ulcers on the vulva, vagina, or penis, and tender adenopathy are seen. Systemic symptoms (fever, flulike illness, myalgia) are common with the initial episode. Painful urination is frequent, especially in females. Primary infection lasts 10–14 days before healing. Lesions may resemble trauma, syphilis (ulcers are painless), or chancroid (ulcers are painful and nodes are erythematous and fluctuant) in the adolescent, and bullous impetigo or severe chemical irritation in younger children.

3. Cutaneous infections—Direct inoculation onto cuts or abrasions may produce localized vesicles or ulcers. A deep HSV infection on the finger (called herpetic whitlow) may be mistaken for a bacterial felon or paronychia; surgical drainage is of no value and is contraindicated. HSV infection of eczematous skin may result in extensive areas of vesicles and shallow ulcers (eczema herpeticum), which may be mistaken for impetigo or varicella.

4. Recurrent mucocutaneous infection—Recurrent oral shedding is asymptomatic. Perioral recurrences often begin with a prodrome of tingling or burning limited to the vermillion border, followed by vesiculation, scabbing, and crusting around the lips over 3–5 days. Recurrent intraoral lesions are rare. Fever, adenopathy, and other symptoms are absent. Recurrent cutaneous herpes most closely resembles impetigo, but the latter is often outside the perinasal and perioral region, recurs infrequently in the same area of skin, responds to antibiotics, yields a positive result on Gram stain, and Streptococcus pyogenes or Staphylococcus aureus can be isolated. Recurrent genital disease is common after the initial infection with HSV-2. It is shorter (5–7 days) and milder (mean, four lesions) than primary infection and is not associated with systemic symptoms. Recurrent genital disease, which may also recur on the thighs and buttocks, is also preceded by a cutaneous sensory prodrome. Recurrence of HSV-1 in the genital region is much less common than occurs after HSV-2 infection.

5. Keratoconjunctivitis—Keratoconjunctivitis may be part of a primary infection due to spread from infected saliva. Most cases are caused by reactivation of virus latent in the ciliary ganglion. Keratoconjunctivitis produces photophobia, pain, and conjunctival irritation. With recurrences, dendritic corneal ulcers may be demonstrable with fluorescein staining. Stromal invasion may occur. Corticosteroids should never be used for unilateral keratitis without ophthalmologic consultation. Other causes of these symptoms include trauma, bacterial infections, and other viral infections (especially adenovirus if pharyngitis is present; bilateral involvement makes HSV unlikely) (see Chapter 16).

6. Encephalitis—Although unusual in infants outside the neonatal period, encephalitis may occur at any age, usually without cutaneous herpes lesions. In older children, HSV encephalitis can follow a primary infection, but often represents reactivation of latent virus. HSV is the most common cause of sporadic severe encephalitis. Diagnosing this cause of encephalitis is very important because it can be treated with specific antiviral therapy. Acute onset is associated with fever, headache, behavioral changes, and focal neurologic deficits and/or focal seizures. Mononuclear pleocytosis is typically present along with an elevated protein concentration, which continues to rise on repeat lumbar punctures. In older children, hypodense areas with a medial and inferior temporal lobe predilection are seen on CT scan, especially after 3–5 days, but the findings in infants may be more diffuse. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is more sensitive and is positive sooner. Periodic focal epileptiform discharges are seen on electroencephalograms, but are not diagnostic of HSV infection. Viral cultures of CSF are rarely positive. The PCR assay to detect HSV DNA in CSF is a sensitive and specific rapid test. Without early antiviral therapy, the prognosis is poor. The differential diagnosis includes mumps, mosquito-borne and other viral encephalitides, parainfectious and postinfectious encephalopathy, brain abscess, acute demyelinating syndromes, and bacterial meningoencephalitis.

7. Neonatal infections—Infection is occasionally acquired by ascending spread prior to delivery (< 5% of cases), but most often occurs at the time of vaginal delivery from a mother with genital infection. Eight to fifteen percent of HSV-2–seropositive pregnant women at delivery have HSV-2 detected by PCR in the genital tract. However, in most cases this represents reactivation of infection acquired in the distant past. Neonatal infection is rarely acquired from mothers with reactivation disease, whereas it is frequently acquired during delivery of mothers with current or very recent primary infection. This is because transplacentally acquired antibody is usually protective. Occasionally, the infection is acquired in the postpartum period from oral secretions of family members or hospital personnel. A history of genital herpes in the mother may be absent. Within a few days and up to 6 weeks (most often within 4 weeks), skin vesicles appear (especially at sites of trauma, such as where scalp monitors were placed). Some infants (45%) have infection limited to the skin, eye, or mouth. Other infants are acutely ill, presenting with jaundice, shock, bleeding, or respiratory distress (20%). Some infants appear well initially, but dissemination of the infection to the brain or other organs becomes evident during the ensuing week. HSV infection (and empiric therapy) should be strongly considered in newborns with the sepsis syndrome that is unresponsive to antibiotic therapy and has negative bacterial cultures. Some infected infants exhibit only neurologic symptoms at 2–3 weeks after delivery: apnea, lethargy, fever, poor feeding, or persistent seizures. The brain infection in these children is often diffuse and is best diagnosed by MRI. The skin lesions may resemble impetigo, bacterial scalp abscesses, or miliaria. Skin lesions may be absent at the time of presentation or may never develop. Skin lesions may recur over weeks or months after recovery from the acute illness. Progressive culture–negative pneumonitis is another manifestation of neonatal HSV. Most cases of neonatal herpes infection are acquired from mothers with undiagnosed genital herpes, most of whom acquired the infection during the pregnancy—especially near term.

B. Laboratory Findings

With multisystem disease, abnormalities in platelets, clotting factors, and liver function tests are often present. A finding of lymphocytic pleocytosis and elevated CSF protein indicates viral meningitis or encephalitis. Virus may be cultured from infected epithelial sites (vesicles, ulcers, or conjunctival scrapings). Cultures of CSF yield positive results in about 50% of neonatal cases, but are uncommon in older children. HSV will be detected within 2 days by rapid tissue culture methods, but PCR is the preferred diagnostic method for all specimens. A positive test from skin, throat, eye, or stool of a newborn is diagnostic. Vaginal culture of the mother may offer circumstantial evidence for the diagnosis, but may be negative.

Rapid diagnostic tests include immunofluorescent stains or ELISA to detect viral antigen in skin or mucosal scrapings. The PCR assay for HSV DNA is positive (> 95%) in the CSF when there is brain involvement. Serum is often positive in the presence of multisystem disease. Typing of genital HSV isolates from adolescents has prognostic value, since HSV-1 genital infection recurs much less frequently than genital HSV-2 infection.

image Complications, Sequelae, & Prognosis

Gingivostomatitis may result in dehydration due to dysphagia; severe chronic oral disease and esophageal involvement may occur in immunosuppressed patients. Primary vulvovaginitis may be associated with aseptic meningitis, paresthesias, autonomic dysfunction due to neuritis (urinary retention, constipation), and secondary candidal infection. HIV transmission from individuals who are also seropositive for HSV infection is facilitated, and HIV acquisition is enhanced in HSV-infected contacts. Extensive cutaneous disease (as in eczema) may be associated with dissemination and bacterial superinfection. Keratitis may result in corneal opacification or perforation. Untreated encephalitis is fatal in 70% of patients and causes severe damage in most of the remainder. When acyclovir treatment is instituted early, 20% of patients die and 40% are neurologically impaired.

Disseminated neonatal infection (25% of cases) is fatal for 30% of neonates in spite of therapy, and 20% of survivors are often impaired. Infants with CNS infection (30% of cases) have a 5% mortality with therapy and 70% of survivors are impaired; treated neonates with infection limited to skin, eye, and mouth survive, most often without sequelae.

image Treatment

A. Specific Measures

HSV is sensitive to antiviral therapy.

1. Topical antivirals—Antiviral agents are effective for corneal disease and include 1% trifluridine and 3% acyclovir (1–2 drops five times daily). These agents should be used with the guidance of an ophthalmologist and used concurrently with oral antiviral therapy. They are inferior to oral formulations for treating mucocutaneous and genital infections.

2. Mucocutaneous HSV infections—These infections respond to administration of oral nucleoside analogues (acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir). The main indications are severe genital HSV infection in adolescents (see Chapter 44; acyclovir, 400 mg three times daily for 7–10 days) and severe gingivostomatitis in young children. Antiviral therapy is beneficial for primary disease when begun early. Recurrent disease rarely requires therapy. Frequent genital recurrences may be suppressed by oral administration of nucleoside analogues (acyclovir, 400 mg twice daily), but this approach should be used sparingly. Other forms of severe cutaneous disease, such as eczema herpeticum, respond to these antivirals. Intravenous acyclovir may be required when disease is extensive in immunocompromised children (10–15 mg/kg or 500 mg/m2 every 8 hours for 14–21 days). Oral acyclovir, which is available in suspension, is also used within 72–96 hours for severe primary gingivostomatitis in immunocompetent young children (20 mg/kg per dose [maximum of 400 mg per dose] four times a day for 7 days). Antiviral therapy does not alter the incidence or severity of subsequent recurrences of oral or genital infection. Development of resistance to antivirals, which is very rare after treating immunocompetent patients, occurs in immunocompromised patients who receive frequent and prolonged therapy.

3. Encephalitis—Treatment consists of intravenous acyclovir, 20 mg/kg (500 mg/m2) every 8 hours for 21 days.

4. Neonatal infection—Newborns receive intravenous acyclovir, 20 mg/kg every 8 hours for 21 days (14 days if infection is limited to skin, eye, or mouth). Therapy should not be discontinued in neonates with CNS disease unless a repeat CSF HSV PCR assay is negative near the end of treatment. The outcome at one year is improved in infants that receive oral acyclovir (300 mg/m2/dose three times daily) for 6 months after completion of IV therapy.

B. General Measures

1. Gingivostomatitis—Gingivostomatitis is treated with pain relief and temperature control measures. Maintaining hydration is important because of the long duration of illness (7–14 days). Nonacidic, cool fluids are best. Topical anesthetic agents (eg, viscous lidocaine or an equal mixture of kaolin–attapulgite [Kaopectate], diphenhydramine, and viscous lidocaine) may be used as a mouthwash for older children who will not swallow it; ingested lidocaine may be toxic to infants or may lead to aspiration. Antiviral therapy is indicated in normal hosts with severe disease. Antibiotics are not helpful.

2. Genital infections—Genital infections may require pain relief, assistance with voiding (warm baths, topical anesthetics, rarely catheterization), and psychological support. Lesions should be kept clean; drying may shorten the duration of symptoms. Sexual contact should be avoided during the interval from prodrome to crusting stages. Because of the frequency of asymptomatic shedding, the only effective way to prevent spread is the use of condoms. Candidal superinfection occurs in 10% of women with primary genital infections.

3. Cutaneous lesions—Skin lesions should be kept clean, dry, and covered if possible to prevent spread. Systemic analgesics may be helpful. Secondary bacterial infection is uncommon in patients with lesions on the mucosa or involving small areas. Secondary infection should be considered and treated if necessary (usually with an antistaphylococcal agent) in patients with more extensive lesions.

4. Recurrent cutaneous disease—Recurrent disease is usually milder than primary infection. Sun block lip balm helps prevent labial recurrences that follow intense sun exposure. There is no evidence that the many popular topical or vitamin therapies are efficacious.

5. Keratoconjunctivitis—An ophthalmologist should be consulted regarding the use of cycloplegics, anti-inflammatory agents, local debridement, and other therapies.

6. Encephalitis—Extensive support will be required for obtunded or comatose patients. Rehabilitation and psychological support are often needed for survivors.

7. Neonatal infection—The affected infant should be isolated and given acyclovir. Cesarean delivery is indicated if the mother has obvious cervical or vaginal lesions, especially if these represent primary infection (35%–50% transmission rate). With infants born vaginally to mothers who have active lesions of recurrent genital herpes, appropriate cultures should be obtained at 24–48 hours after birth, and the infant should be observed closely. Treatment is given to infants whose culture results are positive or who have suggestive signs or symptoms. Infants born to mothers with obvious primary genital herpes should receive therapy before the culture results are known. For women with a history of genital herpes infection, but no genital lesions, vaginal delivery with peripartum cultures of maternal cervix is the standard. Clinical follow-up of the newborn is recommended when maternal culture results are positive. Repeated cervical cultures during pregnancy are not useful.

A challenging problem is the newborn, especially in the first 3 weeks of life, that presents with fever (or hypothermia) and a sepsis-like picture. This is further confounded in the late summer by the existence of circulating enteroviruses. These infants should be considered for empiric acyclovir therapy, pending results of PCR studies, given the poor outcome of disseminated herpes in the newborn. The index of suspicion is increased when there is a CSF pleocytosis, elevated hepatic transaminase levels, a very ill-appearing infant, rash, or respiratory distress.

Berardi A et al: Neonatal herpes simplex virus. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 2011;24(Suppl 1):88 [PMID: 21942600].

De Tiege X, Rozenberg F, Heron B: The spectrum of herpes encephalitis in children. J Europ Paed Neurology Soc 2008;2:72 [PMID: 17870623].

Kimberlin DW et al: Oral acyclovir suppression and neurodevelopment after neonatal herpes. N Eng J Med 2011;365(14):1284 [PMID: 21991950].

Thompson C, Whitley R: Neonatal herpes simplex virus infections: where are we now? Adv Exp Med Biol 2011;697:221 [PMID: 21120729].

Vanderpluym C et al: Empiric acyclovir for neonatal herpes simplex virus infection. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 2012;25(8):1278 [PMID: 20120716].



image Varicella (chickenpox):

image Exposure to varicella or herpes zoster 10–21 days previously; no prior history of varicella.

image Widely scattered red macules and papules concentrated on the face and trunk, rapidly progressing to clear vesicles on an erythematous base, pustules, and then crusts, over 5–6 days.

image Variable fever and nonspecific systemic symptoms.

image Herpes zoster (shingles):

image History of varicella.

image Dermatomal paresthesias and pain prior to eruption (more common in older children).

image Dermatomal distribution of grouped vesicles on an erythematous base.

image General Considerations

Primary infection with varicella-zoster virus results in varicella, which generally confers lifelong immunity, but the virus remains latent lifelong in sensory ganglia. Herpes zoster, which represents reactivation of this latent virus, occurs in 30% of individuals at some time in their life. The incidence of herpes zoster is highest in elderly individuals and in immunosuppressed patients, but herpes zoster occurs in immune competent children. Spread of varicella from a close contact is by respiratory secretions or fomites from vesicles or pustules, with an 85% infection rate in susceptible persons. Exposure to herpes zoster is about one-third as likely to cause varicella in a susceptible host. Over 95% of young adults with a history of varicella are immune, as are 90% of native-born Americans who are unaware of having had varicella. Many individuals from tropical or subtropical regions fail to develop varicella in their childhood and remain susceptible through early adulthood. Humans are the only reservoir.

image Clinical Findings

Exposure to varicella or herpes zoster has usually occurred 14–16 days previously (range, 10–21 days). Contact may not have been recognized, since the index case of varicella is infectious 1–2 days before rash appears. Although varicella is the most distinctive childhood exanthem, inexperienced observers may mistake other diseases for varicella. A 1- to 3-day prodrome of fever, malaise, respiratory symptoms, and headache may occur, especially in older children. The unilateral, dermatomal vesicular rash and pain of herpes zoster is very distinctive. The preeruptive pain of herpes zoster may last several days and be mistaken for other illnesses.

A. Symptoms and Signs

1. Varicella—The usual case consists of mild systemic symptoms followed by crops of red macules that rapidly become small vesicles with surrounding erythema (described as a “dew drop on a rose petal”), form pustules, become crusted, and then scab over and rarely leave a scar. The rash appears predominantly on the trunk and face. Lesions occur in the scalp, and sometimes in the nose, mouth (where they are nonspecific ulcers), conjunctiva, and vagina. The magnitude of systemic symptoms usually parallels skin involvement. Up to five crops of lesions may be seen. New crops usually stop forming after 5–7 days. Pruritus is often intense. If varicella occurs in the first few months of life, it is often mild as a result of transplacentally acquired maternal antibody. Once crusting begins, the patient is no longer contagious. A modified form of varicella occurs in about 15% of vaccinated children exposed to varicella, in spite of receiving a single dose of varicella vaccine. This is usually much milder than typical varicella, with fewer lesions that heal rapidly. Cases of modified varicella are contagious, especially if the modified case has 50 or more skin lesions.

2. Herpes zoster (shingles)—This eruption involves a single dermatome (thus unilateral), usually truncal or cranial; occasionally a contiguous dermatome is involved. Especially in older children this is preceded by neuropathic pain or itching in the same area (designated the “prodrome”). The rash does not cross the midline. Ophthalmic zoster may be associated with corneal involvement. The closely grouped vesicles, which resemble a localized version of varicella or herpes simplex, often coalesce. Crusting occurs in 7–10 days. Postherpetic neuralgia is rare in children. A few vesicles are occasionally seen outside the involved dermatome. Herpes zoster is a common problem in HIV-infected or other immunocompromised children, and is also common in children who had varicella in early infancy (< 1–2 years old) or whose mothers had varicella during pregnancy.

B. Laboratory Findings

Leukocyte counts are normal or low. Leukocytosis suggests secondary bacterial infection. The virus can be identified by fluorescent antibody staining of a lesion smear. Rapid culture methods take 48 hours. When the etiology is critical, as in immune compromised children with atypical disease, PCR is definitive. Diagnosis made with paired serology is not clinically useful. Serum aminotransferase levels may be modestly elevated during typical varicella.

C. Imaging

Varicella pneumonia classically produces numerous bilateral nodular densities and hyperinflation. This is very rare in immunocompetent children. Abnormal chest radiographs are seen more frequently in adults and immunocompromised children.

image Differential Diagnosis

Varicella is usually distinctive. Similar rashes include those of coxsackievirus infection (fewer lesions, lack of crusting), impetigo (fewer lesions, smaller area, no classic vesicles, positive Gram stain, perioral or peripheral lesions), papular urticaria (insect bite history, nonvesicular rash), scabies (burrows, no typical vesicles; failure to resolve), parapsoriasis (rare in children < 10 years, chronic or recurrent, often a history of prior varicella), rickettsialpox (eschar where the mite bites, smaller lesions, no crusting), dermatitis herpetiformis (chronic, urticaria, residual pigmentation), and folliculitis. Herpes zoster is sometimes confused with a linear eruption of herpes simplex or a contact dermatitis (eg, Rhus dermatitis).

image Complications & Sequelae

A. Varicella

Secondary bacterial infection with staphylococci or group A streptococci is most common, presenting as impetigo, cellulitis or fasciitis, abscesses, scarlet fever, or sepsis. Bacterial superinfection occurs in 2%–3% of children. Before a vaccine became available, hospitalization rates associated with varicella were 1:750–1:1000 cases in children and 10-fold higher in adults.

Protracted vomiting or a change in sensorium suggests Reye syndrome or encephalitis. Because Reye syndrome usually occurs in patients who are also receiving salicylates, these should be avoided in patients with varicella. Encephalitis occurs in less than 0.1% of cases, usually in the first week of illness, and is usually limited to cerebellitis with ataxia, which resolves completely. Diffuse encephalitis can be severe.

Varicella pneumonia usually afflicts immunocompromised children (especially those with leukemia or lymphoma or those receiving high doses of corticosteroids or chemotherapy) and adults; pregnant women may be at special risk. Cough, dyspnea, tachypnea, rales, and cyanosis occur several days after onset of rash. Varicella may be life-threatening in immunosuppressed patients. In addition to pneumonitis, their disease may be complicated by hepatitis and encephalitis. The acute illness in these children often begins with unexplained severe abdominal pain. Varicella exposure in severely varicella-naïve immunocompromised children must be evaluated immediately for postexposure prophylaxis (see Chapter 10).

Hemorrhagic varicella lesions may be seen without other complications. This is most often caused by autoimmune thrombocytopenia, but hemorrhagic lesions can occasionally represent idiopathic disseminated intravascular coagulation (purpura fulminans).

Neonates born to mothers who develop varicella from 5 days before to 2 days after delivery are at high risk for severe or fatal (5%) disease and must be given varicella-zoster immune globulin (VariZIG) and followed closely (see Chapter 10).

Varicella occurring during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy may cause (2% incidence) congenital infection associated with cicatricial skin lesions, associated limb anomalies, and cortical atrophy.

Unusual complications of varicella include optic neuritis, myocarditis, transverse myelitis, orchitis, and arthritis.

B. Herpes Zoster

Complications of herpes zoster include secondary bacterial infection, motor or cranial nerve paralysis, meningitis, encephalitis, keratitis and other ocular complications, and dissemination in immunosuppressed patients. These complications are rare in immune competent children, and they do not develop prolonged pain. Postherpetic neuralgia does occur in immunocompromised children.

image Prevention

Varicella-specific hyperimmune globulin is available for postexposure prevention of varicella of high-risk susceptible persons (see Chapter 10). In immune competent children postexposure prophylaxis with acyclovir is effective when it is started at 7–9 days after exposure and is continued for 7 days, as is varicella vaccine when given within 3–5 days of the exposure.

Two doses of the live attenuated varicella vaccine are now part of routine childhood immunization, and “catch-up” immunization is recommended for all other susceptible children and adults.

image Treatment

A. General Measures

Supportive measures include maintenance of hydration, administration of acetaminophen for discomfort, cool soaks or antipruritics for itching (diphenhydramine, 1.25 mg/kg every 6 hours, or hydroxyzine, 0.5 mg/kg every 6 hours), and observance of general hygiene measures (keep nails trimmed and skin clean). Care must be taken to avoid overdosage with antihistaminic agents. Topical or systemic antibiotics may be needed for bacterial superinfection.

B. Specific Measures

Acyclovir is the preferred drug for varicella and herpes zoster infections. Recommended parenteral acyclovir dosage for severe disease is 10 mg/kg (500 mg/m2) intravenously every 8 hours, each dose infused over 1 hour, for 7–10 days. Parenteral therapy should be started early in immunocompromised patients or high-risk infected neonates. Hyperimmune globulin is of no value for established disease. The effect of oral acyclovir (80 mg/kg/d, divided in four doses) on varicella in immunocompetent children was modestly beneficial and nontoxic, but only when administered within 24 hour after the onset of varicella. Oral acyclovir should be used selectively in immunocompetent children (eg, when intercurrent illness is present; possibly when the index case is a sibling or when the patient is an adolescent—both of which are associated with more severe disease) and in children with underlying chronic illnesses. Valacyclovir and famciclovir are superior antiviral agents because of better absorption; only acyclovir and valacyclovir are available as a pediatric suspension. Herpes zoster in an immunocompromised child should be treated with intravenous acyclovir when it is severe, but oral valacyclovir or famciclovir can be used in immunocompromised children when the nature of the illness and the immune status support this decision.

image Prognosis

Except for secondary bacterial infections, serious complications are rare and recovery complete in immune competent hosts.

Marin M, Zhang JX, Seward JF: Near elimination of varicella deaths in the US after implementation of the vaccination program. Pediatrics 2011;128:214 [PMID: 21788222].

Shapiro ED et al: Effectiveness of 2 doses of varicella vaccine in children. J Infect Dis 2011;203(3):312 [PMID: 21208922].



image High fever in a child aged 6–36 months.

image Minimal toxicity.

image Rose-pink maculopapular rash appears when fever subsides.

image General Considerations

Roseola infantum is a benign illness caused by HHV-6 or HHV-7. HHV-6 is a major cause of acute febrile illness in young children. Its significance is that it may be confused with more serious causes of high fever and its role in inciting febrile seizures.

image Clinical Findings

The most prominent historical feature is the abrupt onset of fever, often reaching 40.6°C, which lasts up to 8 days (mean, 4 days) in an otherwise mildly ill child. The fever then ceases abruptly, and a characteristic rash may appear. Roseola occurs predominantly in children aged 6 months to 3 years, with 90% of cases occurring before the second year. HHV-7 infection tends to occur somewhat later in childhood. These viruses are the most common recognized cause of exanthematous fever in this age group and are responsible for 20% of emergency department visits by children aged 6–12 months.

A. Symptoms and Signs

Mild lethargy and irritability may be present, but generally there is a dissociation between other systemic symptoms and the febrile course. The pharynx, tonsils, and tympanic membranes may be injected. Conjunctivitis and pharyngeal exudate are notably absent. Diarrhea and vomiting occur in one-third of patients. Adenopathy of the head and neck often occurs. The anterior fontanelle is bulging in one-quarter of HHV-6–infected infants. If rash appears (20%–30% incidence), it coincides with lysis of fever and begins on the trunk and spreads to the face, neck, and extremities. Rose-pink macules or maculopapules, 2–3 mm in diameter, are nonpruritic, tend to coalesce, and disappear in 1–2 days without pigmentation or desquamation. Rash may occur without fever.

B. Laboratory Findings

Leukopenia and lymphocytopenia are present early. Laboratory evidence of hepatitis occurs in some patients, especially adults.

image Differential Diagnosis

The initial high fever may require exclusion of serious bacterial infection. The relative well-being of most children and the typical course and rash soon clarify the diagnosis. The erythrocyte sedimentation rate is normal. If the child has a febrile seizure, it is important to exclude bacterial meningitis. The CSF is normal in children with roseola. In children who receive antibiotics or other medication at the beginning of the fever, the rash may be attributed incorrectly to drug allergy.

image Complications & Sequelae

Febrile seizures occur in up to 10% of patients (even higher percentages in those with HHV-7 infections). There is evidence that HHV-6 can directly infect the CNS, causing meningoencephalitis or aseptic meningitis. Multiorgan disease (pneumonia, hepatitis, bone marrow suppression, encephalitis) may occur in immunocompromised patients.

image Treatment & Prognosis

Fever is managed readily with acetaminophen and sponge baths. Fever control should be a major consideration in children with a history of febrile seizures. Roseola infantum is otherwise entirely benign.

Kainth MK, Caserta MT: Molecular diagnostic tests for human herpesvirus 6. Ped Infect Dis J 2011;30(7):604 [PMID: 21673548].

Prober CG: Human herpesvirus 6. Adv Exper Med Biol 2011;697:87 [PMID: 21120721].



image Primary infection:

image Asymptomatic or minor illness in young children.

image Mononucleosis-like syndrome without pharyngitis in postpubertal individuals.

image Congenital infection:

image Intrauterine growth retardation.

image Microcephaly with intracerebral calcifications and seizures.

image Retinitis and encephalitis.

image Hepatosplenomegaly with thrombocytopenia.

image “Blueberry muffin” rash.

image Sensorineural deafness.

image Immunocompromised hosts:

image Retinitis and encephalitis.

image Pneumonitis.

image Enteritis and hepatitis.

image Bone marrow suppression.

image General Considerations

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a ubiquitous herpesvirus transmitted by many routes. It can be acquired in utero following maternal viremia or postpartum from birth canal secretions or maternal milk. Young children are infected by the saliva of playmates; older individuals are infected by sexual partners (eg, from saliva, vaginal secretions, or semen). Transfused blood products and transplanted organs can be a source of CMV infection. Clinical illness is determined largely by the patient’s immune competence. Immunocompetent individuals usually develop a mild self-limited illness, whereas immunocompromised children can develop severe, progressive, often multiorgan disease. In utero infection can be teratogenic.

1. In Utero Cytomegalovirus Infection

Approximately 0.5%–1.5% of children are born with CMV infections acquired during maternal viremia. CMV infection is asymptomatic in over 90% of these children, who are usually born to mothers who had experienced reactivation of latent CMV infection during the pregnancy. Symptomatic infection occurs predominantly in infants born to mothers with primary CMV infection, but can also result from recurrent, most likely, reinfection during pregnancy. Even when exposed to a primary maternal infection, less than 50% of fetuses are infected, and in only 10% of those infants is the infection symptomatic at birth. Primary infection in the first half of pregnancy poses the greatest risk for severe fetal damage.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

Severely affected infants are born ill; they are often small for gestational age, floppy, and lethargic. They feed poorly and have poor temperature control. Hepatosplenomegaly, jaundice, petechiae, seizures, and microcephaly are common. Characteristic signs are a distinctive chorioretinitis and periventricular calcification. A purpuric (so-called blueberry muffin) rash similar to that seen with congenital rubella may be present. The mortality rate is 10%–20%. Survivors usually have significant sequelae, especially mental retardation, neurologic deficits, retinopathy, and hearing loss. Isolated hepatosplenomegaly or thrombocytopenia may occur. Even mildly affected children may subsequently manifest mental retardation and psychomotor delay. However, most infected infants (90%) are born to mothers with preexisting immunity who experienced a reactivation of latent CMV during pregnancy. These children have no clinical manifestations at birth. Of these, 10%–15% develop sensorineural hearing loss, which is often bilateral and may appear several years after birth.

B. Laboratory Findings

In severely ill infants, anemia, thrombocytopenia, hyperbilirubinemia, and elevated aminotransferase levels are common. Lymphocytosis occurs occasionally. Pleocytosis and an elevated protein concentration are found in CSF. The diagnosis is readily confirmed by isolation of CMV from urine or saliva within 48 hours, using rapid culture methods combined with immunoassay. The presence in the infant of IgM-specific CMV antibodies suggests the diagnosis. Some commercial ELISA kits are 90% sensitive and specific for these antibodies. Universal screening of asymptomatic children using blood or saliva CMV PCR during the first weeks of life is useful for early detection of children at high risk of developing hearing loss.

C. Imaging

Head radiologic examinations may show microcephaly, periventricular calcifications, and ventricular dilation. These findings strongly correlate with neurologic sequelae and retardation. Long bone radiographs may show the “celery stalk” pattern characteristic of congenital viral infections. Interstitial pneumonia may be present.

image Differential Diagnosis

CMV infection should be considered in any newborn that is seriously ill shortly after birth, especially once bacterial sepsis, metabolic disease, intracranial bleeding, and cardiac disease have been excluded. Other congenital infections to be considered in the differential diagnosis include toxoplasmosis (serology, more diffuse calcification of the CNS, specific type of retinitis, macrocephaly), rubella (serology, specific type of retinitis, cardiac lesions, eye abnormalities), enteroviral infections (time of year, maternal illness, severe hepatitis, PCR), herpes simplex (skin lesions, cultures, severe hepatitis, PCR), and syphilis (serology for both infant and mother, skin lesions, bone involvement).

image Prevention & Treatment

Support is rarely required for anemia and thrombocytopenia. Most children with symptoms at birth have significant neurologic, intellectual, visual, or auditory impairment. Ganciclovir, 5 mg/kg every 12 hours, for up to 6 weeks is recommended for children with severe, life- or sight-threatening disease, or if end-organ disease recurs or progresses. Studies are currently ongoing to determine if early and more prolonged treatment (6 months) with valganciclovir decreases the risk or magnitude of hearing loss, which affects 6%–23% of children with asymptomatic CMV at birth. While studies are ongoing, several publications reported anecdotal success of prolonged valganciclovir therapy (32 mg/kg/d in two doses) for 6 months.

Recent developments in the diagnosis of primary CMV infection during pregnancy using anti-CMV IgM and low-avidity IgG assays followed by quantitative CMV PCR testing of the amniotic fluid at 20–24 weeks gestation have made possible the diagnosis of congenital CMV infection before birth. Many pregnant women elect to terminate gestation under these circumstances, but a recent study has also shown that passive immunoprophylaxis with hyperimmune CMV IgG may prevent development of congenital disease. A subunit CMV vaccine administered to CMV-seronegative pregnant women had a 50% efficacy for prevention of congenital CMV infection.

2. Perinatal Cytomegalovirus Infection

CMV infection can be acquired from birth canal secretions or shortly after birth from maternal milk. In some socioeconomic groups, 10%–20% of infants are infected at birth and excrete CMV for many months. Infection can also be acquired in the postnatal period from unscreened transfused blood products.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

Ninety percent of immunocompetent infants infected by their mothers at birth develop subclinical illness (ie, virus excretion only) or a minor illness within 1–3 months. The remainder develop an illness lasting several weeks characterized by hepatosplenomegaly, lymphadenopathy, and interstitial pneumonitis in various combinations. The severity of the pneumonitis may be increased if there is simultaneous presence of Chlamydia trachomatis. Infants who receive blood products are often premature and immunologically impaired. If they are born to CMV-negative mothers and subsequently receive CMV-containing blood, they frequently develop severe infection and pneumonia after a 2- to 6-week incubation period.

B. Laboratory Findings

Lymphocytosis, atypical lymphocytes, anemia, and thrombocytopenia may be present, especially in premature infants. Liver function is abnormal. CMV is readily isolated from urine and saliva. Secretions obtained at bronchoscopy contain CMV and epithelial cells bearing CMV antigens. Serum levels of CMV antibody rise significantly.

C. Imaging

Chest radiographs show a diffuse interstitial pneumonitis in severely affected infants.

image Differential Diagnosis

CMV infection should be considered as a cause of any prolonged illness in early infancy, especially if hepatosplenomegaly, lymphadenopathy, or atypical lymphocytosis is present. This must be distinguished from granulomatous or malignant diseases and from congenital infections (syphilis, toxoplasmosis, hepatitis B, HIV) not previously diagnosed. Other viruses (Epstein-Barr virus [EBV], HIV, adenovirus) can cause this syndrome. CMV is a recognized cause of viral pneumonia in this age group. Because asymptomatic CMV excretion is common in early infancy, care must be taken to establish the diagnosis and to rule out concomitant pathogens such as Chlamydia and RSV. Severe CMV infection in early infancy may indicate that the child has a congenital or acquired immune deficiency.

image Prevention & Treatment

The self-limited disease of normal infants requires no therapy. Severe pneumonitis in premature infants requires oxygen administration and often intubation. Very ill infants should receive ganciclovir (6 mg/kg every 12 hours). CMV infection acquired by transfusion can be prevented by excluding CMV-seropositive blood donors. Milk donors should also be screened for prior CMV infection. It is likely that high-risk infants receiving large doses of IVIG for other reasons will be protected against severe CMV disease.

3. Cytomegalovirus Infection Acquired in Childhood & Adolescence

Young children are readily infected by playmates, especially because CMV continues to be excreted in saliva and urine for many months after infection. The cumulative annual incidence of CMV excretion by children in day care centers exceeds 75%. In fact, young children in a family are often the source of primary CMV infection of their mothers during subsequent pregnancies. An additional peak of CMV infection takes place when adolescents become sexually active. Sporadic acquisition of CMV occurs after blood transfusion and transplantation.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

Most young children who acquire CMV are asymptomatic or have a minor febrile illness, occasionally with adenopathy. They provide an important reservoir of virus shedders that facilitates spread of CMV. Occasionally a child may have prolonged fever with hepatosplenomegaly and adenopathy. Older children and adults, many of whom are infected during sexual activity, are more likely to be symptomatic in this fashion and can present with a syndrome that mimics the infectious mononucleosis syndrome that follows EBV infection (1–2 weeks of fever, malaise, anorexia, splenomegaly, mild hepatitis, and some adenopathy; see next section). This syndrome can also occur 2–4 weeks after transfusion of CMV-infected blood.

B. Laboratory Findings

In the CMV mononucleosis syndrome, lymphocytosis and atypical lymphocytes are common, as is a mild rise in amino-transferase levels. CMV is present in saliva and urine; CMV DNA can be uniformly detected in plasma or blood.

image Differential Diagnosis

In older children, CMV infection should be included as a possible cause of fever of unknown origin, especially when lymphocytosis and atypical lymphocytes are present. CMV infection is distinguished from EBV infection by the absence of pharyngitis, the relatively minor adenopathy, and the absence of serologic evidence of acute EBV infection. Mononucleosis syndromes also are caused by Toxoplasma gondii, rubella virus, adenovirus, hepatitis A virus, and HIV.

image Prevention

Screening of transfused blood or filtering blood (thus removing CMV-containing white blood cells) prevents cases related to this source.

4. Cytomegalovirus Infection in Immunocompromised Children

In addition to symptoms experienced during primary infection, immunocompromised hosts develop symptoms with reinfection or reactivation of latent CMV. This is clearly seen in children with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), after transplantation, or with congenital immunodeficiencies. However, in most immunocompromised patients, primary infection is more likely to cause severe symptoms than is reactivation or reinfection. The severity of the resulting disease is generally proportionate to the degree of immunosuppression.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

A mild febrile illness with myalgia, malaise, and arthralgia may occur, especially with reactivation disease. Severe disease often includes subacute onset of dyspnea and cyanosis as manifestations of interstitial pneumonitis. Auscultation reveals only coarse breath sounds and scattered rales. A rapid respiratory rate may precede clinical or radiographic evidence of pneumonia. Hepatitis without jaundice or hepatomegaly is common. Diarrhea, which can be severe, occurs with CMV colitis, and CMV can cause esophagitis with symptoms of odynophagia or dysphagia. These enteropathies are most common in AIDS, as is the presence of a retinitis that often progresses to blindness. Encephalitis and polyradiculitis also occur in AIDS.

B. Laboratory Findings

Neutropenia and thrombocytopenia are common. Atypical lymphocytosis is infrequent. Serum aminotransferase levels are often elevated. The stools may contain occult blood if enteropathy is present. CMV is readily isolated from saliva, urine, buffy coat, and bronchial secretions. Results are available in 48 hours. Interpretation of positive cultures is made difficult by asymptomatic shedding of CMV in saliva and urine in many immunocompromised patients. CMV disease correlates more closely with the presence of CMV in the blood or lung lavage fluid. Monitoring for the appearance of CMV DNA in plasma or CMV antigen in blood mononuclear cells is used as a guide to early antiviral (“preemptive”) therapy.

C. Imaging

Bilateral interstitial pneumonitis is present on chest radiographs.

image Differential Diagnosis

The initial febrile illness must be distinguished from treatable bacterial or fungal infection. Similarly, the pulmonary disease must be distinguished from intrapulmonary hemorrhage; drug-induced or radiation pneumonitis; pulmonary edema; and bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and other virus infections. CMV infection causes bilateral and interstitial abnormalities on chest radiographs, cough is nonproductive, chest pain is absent, and the patient is not usually toxic. Pneumocystis jiroveci infection may have a similar presentation. These patients may have polymicrobial disease. It is suspected that bacterial and fungal infections are enhanced by the neutropenia that can accompany CMV infection. Infection of the gastrointestinal tract is diagnosed by endoscopy. This will exclude candidal, adenoviral, and herpes simplex infections and allows tissue confirmation of CMV-induced mucosal ulcerations.

image Prevention & Treatment

Blood donors should be screened to exclude those with prior CMV infection, or blood should be filtered. Ideally, seronegative transplant recipients should receive organs from seronegative donors. Severe symptoms, most commonly pneumonitis, often respond to early therapy with intravenous ganciclovir (5 mg/kg every 12 hours for 14–21 days). Neutropenia is a frequent side effect of this therapy. Foscarnet and cidofovir are alternative therapeutic agents recommended for patients with ganciclovir-resistant virus. Prophylactic use of oral or intravenous ganciclovir or foscarnet may prevent CMV infections in organ transplant recipients. Preemptive therapy can be used in transplant recipients by monitoring CMV in blood by PCR and instituting therapy when the results reach a certain threshold regardless of clinical signs or symptoms.

Boppana SB et al: Dried blood spot real-time polymerase chain reaction assays to screen newborns for congenital cytomegalovirus infection. JAMA 2010;303:1375 [PMID: 20388893].

del Rosal T et al: Treatment of symptomatic congenital cytomegalovirus infection beyond the neonatal period. J Clin Virol 2012;55(1):72 [PMID: 22750017].

Visentin S et al: Early primary cytomegalovirus infection in pregnancy: maternal hyperimmunoglobulin therapy improves outcomes among infants at 1 year of age. Clin Infect Dis 2012;55(4):497 [PMID: 22539662].



image Prolonged fever.

image Exudative pharyngitis.

image Generalized adenopathy.

image Hepatosplenomegaly.

image Atypical lymphocytes.

image Heterophil antibodies.

image General Considerations

Mononucleosis is the most characteristic syndrome produced by EBV infection. Young children infected with EBV have either no symptoms or a mild nonspecific febrile illness. As the age of the host increases, EBV infection is more likely to produce the typical features of the mononucleosis syndrome, including 20%–25% of infected adolescents. EBV is acquired readily from asymptomatic carriers (15%–20% of whom excrete the virus in saliva on any given day) and from recently ill patients, who excrete virus for many months. Young children are infected from the saliva of playmates and family members. Adolescents may be infected through sexual activity. EBV can also be transmitted by blood transfusion and organ transplantation.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

After an incubation period of 1–2 months, a 2- to 3-day prodrome of malaise and anorexia yields, abruptly or insidiously, to a febrile illness with temperatures exceeding 39°C. The major complaint is pharyngitis, which is often (50%) exudative. Lymph nodes are enlarged, firm, and mildly tender. Any area may be affected, but posterior and anterior cervical nodes are almost always enlarged. Splenomegaly is present in 50%–75% of patients. Hepatomegaly is common (30%), and the liver is frequently tender. Five percent of patients have a rash, which can be macular, scarlatiniform, or urticarial. Rash is almost universal in patients taking penicillin or ampicillin. Soft palate petechiae and eyelid edema are also observed.

B. Laboratory Findings

1. Peripheral blood—Leukopenia may occur early, but an atypical lymphocytosis (comprising over 10% of the total leukocytes at some time in the illness) is most notable. Hematologic changes may not be seen until the third week of illness and may be entirely absent in some EBV syndromes (eg, neurologic).

2. Heterophile antibodies—These nonspecific antibodies appear in over 90% of older patients with mononucleosis, but in fewer than 50% of children younger than age 5 years. They may not be detectable until the second week of illness and may persist for up to 12 months after recovery. Rapid screening tests (slide agglutination) are usually positive if the titer is significant; a positive result strongly suggests but does not prove EBV infection.

3. Anti-EBV antibodies—It may be necessary to measure specific antibody titers when heterophile antibodies fail to appear, as in young children. Acute EBV infection is established by detecting IgM antibody to the viral capsid antigen (VCA) or by detecting a fourfold or greater change of IgG anti-VCA titers (in normal hosts, IgG antibody peaks by the time symptoms appear; in immunocompromised hosts, the tempo of antibody production may be delayed). The absence of anti–EBV nuclear antigen (EBNA) antibodies, which are typically first detected at least 4 weeks after the initiation of symptoms, may also be used to diagnose acute infection in immunocompetent hosts. However, immunocompromised hosts may fail to develop anti-EBNA antibodies.

4. EBV PCR—Detection of EBV DNA is the method of choice for the diagnosis of CNS and ocular infections. Quantitative EBV PCR in peripheral blood mononuclear cells has been used to diagnose EBV-related lymphoproliferative disorders in transplant patients.

image Differential Diagnosis

Severe pharyngitis may suggest group A streptococcal infection. Enlargement of only the anterior cervical lymph nodes, a neutrophilic leukocytosis, and the absence of splenomegaly suggest bacterial infection. Although a child with a positive throat culture result for Streptococcus usually requires therapy, up to 10% of children with mononucleosis are asymptomatic streptococcal carriers. In this group, penicillin therapy is unnecessary and often causes a rash. Severe primary herpes simplex pharyngitis, occurring in adolescence, may also mimic infectious mononucleosis. With herpes simplex pharyngitis, some anterior mouth ulcerations should suggest the correct diagnosis. Adenoviruses are another cause of severe, often exudative pharyngitis. EBV infection should be considered in the differential diagnosis of any perplexing prolonged febrile illness. Similar illnesses that produce atypical lymphocytosis include rubella (pharyngitis not prominent, shorter illness, less adenopathy and splenomegaly), adenovirus (upper respiratory symptoms and cough, conjunctivitis, less adenopathy, fewer atypical lymphocytes), hepatitis A or B (more severe liver function abnormalities, no pharyngitis, no lymphadenopathy), and toxoplasmosis (negative heterophil test, less pharyngitis). Serum sickness–like drug reactions and leukemia (smear morphology is important) may be confused with infectious mononucleosis. CMV mononucleosis is a close mimic except for minimal pharyngitis and less adenopathy; it is much less common. Serologic tests for EBV and CMV should clarify the correct diagnosis. The acute initial manifestation of HIV infection can be a mononucleosis-like syndrome.

image Complications

Splenic rupture is a rare complication, which usually follows significant trauma. Hematologic complications, including hemolytic anemia, thrombocytopenia, and neutropenia, are more common. Neurologic involvement can include aseptic meningitis, encephalitis, isolated neuropathy such as Bell palsy, and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Any of these may appear prior to or in the absence of the more typical signs and symptoms of infectious mononucleosis. Rare complications include myocarditis, pericarditis, and atypical pneumonia. Recurrence or persistence of EBV-associated symptoms for 6 months or longer characterizes chronic active EBV. This disease is due to continuous viral replication and warrants specific antiviral therapy. Rarely EBV infection becomes a progressive lymphoproliferative disorder characterized by persistent fever, multiple organ involvement, neutropenia or pancytopenia, and agammaglobulinemia. Hemocytophagia is often present in the bone marrow. An X-linked genetic defect in immune response has been inferred for some patients (Duncan syndrome, X-linked lymphoproliferative disorder). Children with other congenital immunodeficiencies or chemotherapy-induced immunosuppression can also develop progressive EBV infection, EBV-associated lymphoproliferative disorder, lymphoma, and other malignancies.

image Treatment & Prognosis

Bed rest may be necessary in severe cases. Acetaminophen controls high fever. Potential airway obstruction due to swollen pharyngeal lymphoid tissue responds rapidly to systemic corticosteroids. Corticosteroids may also be given for hematologic and neurologic complications, although no controlled trials have proved their efficacy in these conditions. Fever and pharyngitis disappear by 10–14 days. Adenopathy and splenomegaly can persist several weeks longer. Some patients complain of fatigue, malaise, or lack of well-being for several months. Although corticosteroids may shorten the duration of fatigue and malaise, their long-term effects on this potentially oncogenic viral infection are unknown, and indiscriminate use is discouraged. Patients with splenic enlargement should avoid contact sports for 6–8 weeks. Acyclovir, valacyclovir, penciclovir, ganciclovir, and foscarnet are active against EBV and are indicated in the treatment of chronic active EBV.

Management of EBV-related lymphoproliferative disorders relies primarily on decreasing the immunosuppression whenever possible. Adjunctive therapy with acyclovir, ganciclovir, or another antiviral active against EBV as well as γ globulin has been used without scientific evidence of efficacy.

Balfour HH Jr et al: Behavioral, virologic, and immunologic factors associated with acquisition and severity of primary Epstein-Barr virus infection in university students. J Infect Dis 2013;207(1):80 [PMID: 23100562].


In the United States, mosquitoes are the most common insect vectors that spread viral infections (Table 40–4). As a consequence, these infections—and others that are spread by ticks—tend to occur as summer–fall epidemics that coincide with the seasonal breeding and feeding habits of the vector, and the etiologic agent varies by region. Other insect-borne viral infections are seen in international travelers. Thus, a careful travel and exposure history is critical for correct diagnostic workup.



image Fever and headache.

image Change in mental status or behavior (or both), with or without focal neurologic deficits.

image CSF shows a mononuclear cell pleocytosis, elevated protein level, and normal glucose level.

Encephalitis is a common severe manifestation of many infections spread by insects (see Table 40–4). With many viral pathogens, the infection is most often subclinical, or a mild CNS disease such as meningitis is present. These infections have some distinguishing features in terms of subclinical infection rate, unique neurologic syndromes, associated systemic symptoms, and prognosis. The diagnosis is generally made clinically during recognized outbreaks and is confirmed by virus-specific serology. Prevention consists of control of mosquito vectors and precautions with proper clothing and insect repellents to minimize mosquito and tick bites. It is essential before making the diagnosis of arboviral encephalitis, which is not treatable, to exclude herpes encephalitis, which warrants specific antiviral therapy. Delay in administering this therapy may have dire consequences.

Table 40–4. Some insect-borne viral diseases occurring in the United States or in returning U.S. travelers.



image West Nile Virus Encephalitis

This flavivirus is the most important arbovirus infection in the United States. In 2003 there were more than 10,000 clinically apparent infections, more than 2900 nervous system infections, and 265 deaths, in 47 states. Prevalence had declined significantly, but in 2012 there was a resurgence to more than 5000 reported cases, of which approximately half were neuroinvasive; 240 were fatal. The reservoir of West Nile virus includes more than 160 species of birds whose migration explains the extent of endemic disease. Epidemics occur in summer–fall; most infected individuals are asymptomatic. Approximately 20% develop West Nile fever, which is characterized by fever, headache, retro-orbital pain, nausea and vomiting, lymphadenopathy, and a maculopapular rash (20%–50%). Less than 1% of infected patients develop meningitis or encephalitis, but 10% of these cases are fatal (0.2% of all infections). Children are most likely to have neuroinvasive disease limited to meningitis. The major risk factor for severe disease is age older than 50 years and immune compromise. Children, especially adolescents, develop West Nile fever; less than one-third of children with clinically apparent infection have neuroinvasive disease. The neurologic manifestations are most often those found with other meningoencephalitides. However, distinguishing atypical features include polio-like flaccid paralysis, movement disorders (parkinsonism, tremor, myoclonus), brainstem symptoms, polyneuropathy, and optic neuritis. Muscle weakness, facial palsy, and hyporeflexia are common (20% of each finding). Recovery is slow and serious sequelae occur in some severely affected patients. Diagnosis is best made by detecting IgM antibody (enzyme immunoassay [EIA]) to the virus in CSF. This will be present by 5–6 days (95%) after onset. PCR is a specific diagnostic tool, but is less sensitive than antibody detection. Antibody rise in serum can also be used for diagnosis.

Treatment is supportive, although various antivirals and specific immune globulin are being studied. The infection is not spread between contacts, but can be spread by donated organs, blood, and breast milk, and transplacentally.

Colpitts TM, Conway MJ, Montgomery RR, Fikrig E. West Nile virus: biology, transmission, and human infection. Clin Micro Rev 2012;25(4):635 [PMID: 20121004].

Rizzo C et al: West Nile virus infections in children: a disease pediatricians should think about. Ped Infect Dis J 2011;30(1):65 [PMID: 21173677].



image Travel or residence in an endemic area.

image First infection (first episode) results in nonspecific rash and fever; retro-orbital pain, severe myalgia, and arthralgia may occur.

image Subsequent infection with a different (heterotypic) serotype of dengue may result in dengue hemorrhagic fever (thrombocytopenia, bleeding, plasma leak syndrome); this may progress to shock (dengue shock syndrome).

In endemic areas, more than 50 million cases of dengue occur each year, often in severe forms. In the United States, more than 400 cases are diagnosed, most often in travelers from the Caribbean or Asia and less often in those visiting Central and South America, making it the most common arboviral disease in travelers. Dengue is the second most common cause of fever (after malaria) in returning travelers. Dengue occurs in Mexico; Texas and Key West have sporadic indigenous outbreaks and the disease has been epidemic in Puerto Rico. The spread of dengue requires the requisite species (which is present in the United States) of mosquito, which transmits virus from a reservoir of viremic humans in endemic areas. Most patients have mild disease, especially young children, who may have a nonspecific fever and rash. Severity is a function of age, and prior infection with other serotypes of dengue virus is a prerequisite for severe hemorrhagic complications.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

Dengue fever begins abruptly 4–7 days after transmission (range, 3–14 days) with fever, chills, severe retro-orbital pain, severe muscle and joint pain, nausea, and vomiting. Erythema of the face and torso may occur early. After 3–4 days, a centrifugal maculopapular rash appears in half of the patients. The rash can become petechial, and mild hemorrhagic signs (epistaxis, gingival bleeding, microscopic blood in stool or urine) may be noted. The illness lasts 5–7 days, although rarely fever may reappear for several additional days. Fever may become relatively lower on the third day, only to become higher until defervescence. Since there are four distinct serotypes of dengue virus, multiple sequential infections can occur.

B. Laboratory Findings

Leukopenia and a mild drop in platelets are common. Liver function tests are usually normal. Diagnosis is made by viral culture of plasma (50% sensitive up to the fifth day), detection of viral antigenemia (90% sensitive during the febrile phase of first infections), detection of IgM-specific ELISA antibodies (90% sensitive at the sixth day), or by detecting a rise in type-specific antibody. PCR testing is available for diagnosis in some areas.

image Differential Diagnosis

This diagnosis should be considered for any traveler to an endemic area who has symptoms suggestive of a systemic viral illness, although less than 1 in 1000 travelers to these areas develops dengue. Often the areas visited have other unique pathogens circulating (eg, malaria, typhoid fever, leptospirosis, rickettsial diseases, other endemic alphaviruses and flaviviruses, and measles). Especially relevant in travelers from India and the Indian ocean islands is chikungunya fever, which also presents with fever, and rash. This illness is associated with arthralgia/arthritis, rather than myalgia as is seen with dengue. EBV, influenza, enteroviruses, and acute HIV infection may produce a similar illness. Dengue is not associated with sore throat or cough. An illness that starts 2 weeks after the trip ends or that lasts longer than 2 weeks is not dengue or chikungunya fever.

image Complications

Rarely dengue fever is associated with meningoencephalitis (5%–10%) or hepatic damage. More common in endemic areas is the appearance of dengue hemorrhagic fever, which is defined by significant thrombocytopenia (< 100,000 platelets/μL, bleeding, and a plasma leak syndrome [hemoconcentration = hematocrit > 20% higher than baseline], hypoalbuminemia, and pleural or peritoneal effusions). This occurs most frequently with a second or subsequent attack of dengue, as a consequence of circulating antibody and other immune responses acquired from prior dengue virus infections; thus, it is rarely seen in typical travelers. Failure to recognize and treat this complication may lead to dengue shock syndrome, which is defined by signs of circulatory failure and hypotension or shock, and has a high fatality rate (10%). Dengue can be transmitted in utero from a pregnant woman infected within 2 weeks prior to delivery.

image Prevention

Prevention of dengue fever involves avoiding high-risk areas and using conventional mosquito avoidance measures. The main vector is a daytime feeder. Several vaccines to prevent dengue are being tested.

image Treatment

Dengue fever is treated by oral replacement of fluid lost from gastrointestinal symptoms. Analgesic therapy, which is often necessary, should not include drugs that affect platelet function. Recovery is complete without sequelae. The hemorrhagic syndrome requires prompt fluid therapy with plasma expanders and isotonic saline.

Chen LH, Wilson ME: Dengue and chikungunya infections in travelers. Curr Opin Infect Dis 2010;23:438 [PMID: 20581669].

Cleton N et al: Come fly with me: review of clinically important arboviruses for global travelers. J Clin Virol 2012;55(3):191 [PMID: 22840968].

Simmons CP, Farrar JJ, van Vinh Chau N, Wills B: Dengue. N Engl J Med 2012;366(15):1423 [PMID: 22494122].



image Travel in endemic area; tick bite.

image Fever, chills, headache, retro-orbital pain, myalgia.

image Biphasic fever curve.

image Leukopenia early in the illness.

Colorado tick fever is endemic in the high plains and mountains of the central and northern Rocky Mountains and northern Pacific coast of the United States. The reservoir of the virus consists of squirrels and chipmunks. Many hundreds of cases of Colorado tick fever occur each year in visitors or laborers entering this region, primarily from May through July.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

After a 3- to 4-day incubation period (maximum, 14 days), fever begins suddenly together with chills, lethargy, headache, ocular pain, myalgia, abdominal pain, and nausea and vomiting. Conjunctivitis may be present. A nondistinctive maculopapular rash occurs in 5%–10% of patients. The illness lasts 7–10 days, and half of patients have a biphasic fever curve with several afebrile days in the midst of the illness.

B. Laboratory Findings

Leukopenia is characteristic early in the illness. Platelets are modestly decreased. Specific ELISA testing is available, but 2–3 weeks may elapse before seroconversion. Fluorescent antibody staining will detect virus-infected erythrocytes during the illness and for weeks after recovery. RT-PCR is available in some areas that will be positive within the first week of illness.

image Differential Diagnosis

Early findings, especially if rash is present, may suggest enterovirus, measles, or rubella infection. Enteric fever may be an early consideration because of the presence of leukopenia and thrombocytopenia. A history of tick bite, which is often obtained; information about local risk; and the biphasic fever pattern will help with the diagnosis. Because of the wilderness exposure, diseases such as leptospirosis, borreliosis, tularemia, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever will be considerations.

image Complications

Meningoencephalitis occurs in 3%–7% of patients. Cardiac and pulmonary complications are rare.

image Prevention & Treatment

Prevention involves avoiding endemic areas and using conventional means to avoid tick bite. Therapy is supportive. Do not use analgesics that modify platelet function.

Meagher KE, Decker CF: Other tick-borne illnesses: tularemia, Colorado tick fever, tick paralysis. Disease-A-Month 2012;58(6): 370 [PMID: 22608124].


See the earlier section on Infections due to Herpesviruses for a discussion of varicella and roseola, the two other major childhood exanthems.



image Fever and rash with “slapped-cheek” appearance, followed by a symmetrical, full-body maculopapular rash.

image Arthritis in older children.

image Profound anemia in patients with impaired erythrocyte production.

image Nonimmune hydrops fetalis following infection of pregnant women.

image General Considerations

This benign exanthematous illness of school-aged children is caused by the human parvovirus designated B19. Spread is respiratory, occurring in winter–spring epidemics. A nonspecific mild flulike illness may occur during the viremia at 7–10 days; the characteristic rash occurring at 10–17 days represents an immune response. The patient is viremic and contagious prior to—but not after—the onset of rash.

Approximately half of infected individuals have a subclinical illness. Most cases (60%) occur in children between ages 5 and 15 years, with an additional 40% occurring later in life. Forty percent of adults are seronegative. The disease is moderately contagious; the secondary attack rate in a school or household setting is 50% among susceptible children and 20%–30% among susceptible adults.

image Clinical Findings

Owing to the nonspecific nature of the exanthem and the many subclinical cases, a history of contact with an infected individual is often absent or unreliable. Recognition of the illness is easier during outbreaks.

A. Symptoms and Signs

Typically, the first sign of illness is the rash, which begins as raised, fiery red maculopapular lesions on the cheeks that coalesce to give a “slapped-cheek” appearance. The lesions are warm, nontender, and sometimes pruritic. They may be scattered on the forehead, chin, and postauricular areas, but the circumoral region is spared. Within 1–2 days, similar lesions appear on the proximal extensor surfaces of the extremities and spread distally in a symmetrical fashion. Palms and soles are usually spared. The trunk, neck, and buttocks are also commonly involved. Central clearing of confluent lesions produces a characteristic lacelike pattern. The rash fades in several days to several weeks but frequently reappears in response to local irritation, heat (bathing), sunlight, and stress. Nearly 50% of infected children have some rash remaining (or recurring) for 10 days. Fine desquamation may be present. Mild systemic symptoms occur in up to 50% of children. These symptoms include low-grade fever, mild malaise, sore throat, and coryza. These symptoms appear for 2–3 days followed by a week-long asymptomatic phase before the rashes appear.

Purpuric stocking-glove rashes, neurologic disease, and severe disorders resembling hemolytic-uremic syndrome have also been described in association with parvovirus B19.

B. Laboratory Findings

A mild leukopenia occurs early in some patients, followed by leukocytosis and lymphocytosis. Specific IgM and IgG serum antibody tests are available, but care must be used in choosing a reliable laboratory for this test. IgM antibody is present in 90% of patients at the time of the rash. Nucleic acid detection tests are often definitive, but parvovirus DNA may be detectable in blood for as long as 9 months after infection. The disease is not diagnosed by routine viral culture.

image Differential Diagnosis

In children immunized against measles and rubella, parvovirus B19 is the most frequent agent of morbilliform and rubelliform rashes. The characteristic rash and the mild nature of the illness distinguish erythema infectiosum from other childhood exanthems. It lacks the prodromal symptoms of measles and the lymphadenopathy of rubella. Systemic symptoms and pharyngitis are more prominent with enteroviral infections and scarlet fever.

image Complications & Sequelae

A. Arthritis

Arthritis is more common in older patients, beginning with late adolescence. Approximately 10% of older children have severe joint symptoms. Girls are affected more commonly than boys. Pain and stiffness occur symmetrically in the peripheral joints. Arthritis usually follows the rash and may persist for 2–6 weeks but resolves without permanent damage.

B. Aplastic Crisis and Other Hematologic Abnormalities

Parvovirus B19 replicates primarily in erythroid progenitor cells. Consequently, reticulocytopenia occurs for approximately 1 week during the illness. This goes unnoticed in individuals with a normal erythrocyte half-life, but results in severe anemia in patients with chronic hemolytic anemia.

Pure red cell aplasia, leukopenia, pancytopenia, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, and a hemophagocytic syndrome have been described. Patients with HIV infection and other immunosuppressive illnesses may develop prolonged anemia or pancytopenia. Patients with hemolytic anemia and aplastic crisis, or with immunosuppression, may be contagious and should be isolated while in the hospital.

C. Other End-Organ Infections

Parvovirus is under study as a potential cause of a variety of collagen-vascular diseases. Parvovirus has been associated with neurologic syndromes, hepatitis, and suppression of bone marrow lineages. It is implicated as a cause of myocarditis.

D. In Utero Infections

Infection of susceptible pregnant women may produce fetal infection with hydrops fetalis. Fetal death occurs in about 6% of cases; most fatalities occur in the first 20 weeks. This is higher than the rate of fetal loss expected in typical pregnancies. Congenital anomalies have not been associated with parvovirus B19 infection during pregnancy.

image Treatment & Prognosis

Erythema infectiosum is a benign illness for immunocompetent individuals. Patients with aplastic crisis may require blood transfusions. It is unlikely that this complication can be prevented by quarantine measures, because acute parvovirus infection in contacts is often unrecognized and is most contagious prior to the rash. Pregnant women who are exposed to erythema infectiosum or who work in a setting in which an epidemic occurs should be tested for evidence of prior infection. Susceptible pregnant women should then be followed up for evidence of parvovirus infection. Approximately 1.5% of women of childbearing age are infected during pregnancy. If maternal infection occurs, the fetus should be followed by ultrasonography for evidence of hydrops and distress. In utero transfusion or early delivery may salvage some fetuses. Pregnancies should not be terminated because of parvovirus infection. The risk of fetal death among exposed pregnant women of unknown serologic status is less than 2.5% for homemakers and less than 1.5% for school teachers.

Intramuscular immune globulin is not protective. High-dose IVIG has stopped viremia and led to marrow recovery in some cases of prolonged aplasia. Its role in immunocompetent patients and pregnant women is unknown.

Dijkmans AC et al: Parvovirus B19 in pregnancy: prenatal diagnosis and management of fetal complications. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol 2012;24(2):95 [PMID: 22249146].

Gutermuth J et al: Papular-purpuric gloves and sicks syndrome. Lancet 2011;378(9786):198 [PMID: 21742170].

Lackner H et al: The spectrum of parvovirus B19 infection in a pediatric hemato-oncologic ward. Ped Infect Dis J 2011;30(5):440 [PMID: 21502929].



image Exposure to measles 9–14 days previously.

image Prodrome of fever, cough, conjunctivitis, and coryza.

image Koplik spots (few to many small white papules on a diffusely red base on the buccal mucosa) 1–2 days prior to and after onset of rash.

image Maculopapular rash spreading down from the face and hairline to the trunk over 3 days and later becoming confluent.

image Leukopenia.

image General Considerations

This childhood exanthem is rarely seen in the United States because of universal vaccination (< 225 cases in 2011, 90% of which were acquired abroad, imported, or related to imported cases). Sporadic clusters of cases are the result of improper immunization rather than of vaccine failures. It is recommended that all children be revaccinated prior to entry into primary or secondary school (see Chapter 10). The attack rate in susceptible individuals is extremely high; spread is via respiratory droplets. Morbidity and mortality rates in the developing world are substantial because of underlying malnutrition and secondary infections. Because humans are the sole reservoir of measles, there is the potential to eliminate this disease worldwide.

image Clinical Findings

A history of contact with a suspected case may be absent because airborne spread is efficient and patients are contagious during the prodrome. Contact with an imported case may not be recognized. In temperate climates, epidemic measles is a winter–spring disease. Because measles is uncommon in the United States, many suspected cases are misdiagnoses of other viral infections.

A. Symptoms and Signs

High fever and lethargy are prominent. Sneezing, eyelid edema, tearing, copious coryza, photophobia, and harsh cough ensue and worsen. Koplik spots are white macular lesions on the buccal mucosa, typically opposite the lower molars. These are almost pathognomonic for rubeola, although they may be absent. A discrete maculopapular rash begins when the respiratory symptoms are maximal and spreads quickly over the face and trunk, coalescing to a bright red. As it spreads to the extremities, the rash fades from the face and is completely gone within 6 days; fine desquamation may occur. Fever peaks when the rash appears and usually falls 2–3 days thereafter.

B. Laboratory Findings

Lymphopenia is characteristic. Total leukocyte counts may fall to 1500/μL. The diagnosis is usually made by detection of measles IgM antibody in serum drawn at least 3 days after the onset of rash; diagnosis may be made later by detection of a significant rise in IgG antibody. Direct detection of measles antigen by fluorescent antibody staining of nasopharyngeal cells is a useful rapid method. PCR testing of oropharyngeal secretions or urine is extremely sensitive, specific, and can detect infection up to 5 days before symptoms.

C. Imaging

Chest radiographs often show hyperinflation, perihilar infiltrates, or parenchymal patchy, fluffy densities. Secondary consolidation or effusion may be visible.

image Differential Diagnosis

Table 40–3 lists other illnesses that may resemble measles.

image Complications & Sequelae

A. Respiratory Complications

These complications occur in up to 15% of patients. Bacterial superinfection of the lungs, middle ear, sinus, and cervical nodes are most common. Fever that persists after the third or fourth day of rash suggests such a complication, as does leukocytosis. Bronchospasm, severe croup, and progressive viral pneumonia or bronchiolitis (in infants) also occur. Immunosuppressed patients are at much greater risk for fatal pneumonia than are immunocompetent patients.

B. Cerebral Complications

Encephalitis occurs in 1 in 2000 cases. Onset is usually within a week after appearance of rash. Symptoms include combativeness, ataxia, vomiting, seizures, and coma. Lymphocytic pleocytosis and a mildly elevated protein concentration are usual CSF findings, but the fluid may be normal. Forty percent of patients so affected die or have severe neurologic sequelae.

Subacute sclerosing panencephalitis (SSPE) is a slow measles virus infection of the brain that becomes symptomatic years later in about 1 in 100,000 previously infected children. This progressive cerebral deterioration is associated with myoclonic jerks and a typical electroencephalographic pattern. It is fatal in 6–12 months. High titers of measles antibody are present in serum and CSF.

C. Other Complications

These include hemorrhagic measles (severe disease with multiorgan bleeding, fever, cerebral symptoms), thrombocytopenia, appendicitis, keratitis, myocarditis, and premature delivery or stillbirth. Mild liver function test elevation is detected in up to 50% of cases in young adults; jaundice may also occur. Measles causes transient immunosuppression; thus, reactivation or progression of tuberculosis (including transient cutaneous anergy) can occur in children with untreated tuberculosis.

image Prevention

The current two-dose active vaccination strategy is successful. Vaccine should not be withheld for concurrent mild acute illness, tuberculosis or positive tuberculin skin test, breast feeding, or exposure to an immunodeficient contact. The vaccine is recommended for HIV-infected children without severe HIV complications and adequate CD4 cells (≥ 15%).

image Treatment & Prognosis

Vaccination prevents the disease in susceptible exposed individuals if given within 72 hours (see Chapter 10). Immune globulin (0.25 mL/kg intramuscularly; 0.5 mL/kg if immunocompromised) will prevent or modify measles if given within 6 days. Suspected cases should be diagnosed promptly and reported to the local health department.

Recovery generally occurs 7–10 days after onset of symptoms. Therapy is supportive: eye care, cough relief (avoid opioid suppressants in infants), and fever reduction (acetaminophen, lukewarm baths; avoid salicylates). Secondary bacterial infections should be treated promptly; antimicrobial prophylaxis is not indicated. Ribavirin is active in vitro and may be useful in infected immunocompromised children. In malnourished children, vitamin A supplementation should be given to attenuate the illness.

Mayo-Wilson E et al: Vitamin A supplementation for preventing mortality, illness, and blindness in children aged under 5: systematic review and meta-analysis. Brit Med J 2011;343:d5094 [PMID: 21868478].

Moss WJ, Griffin DE: Measles. Lancet 2012;379(9811):153 [PMID: 20120116].



image History of rubella vaccination usually absent.

image Prodromal nonspecific respiratory symptoms and adenopathy (postauricular and occipital).

image Maculopapular rash beginning on face, rapidly spreading to the entire body, and disappearing by fourth day.

image Few systemic symptoms.

image Congenital infection.

image Retarded growth, development.

image Cataracts, retinopathy.

image Purpuric “blueberry muffin” rash at birth.

image Jaundice, thrombocytopenia.

image Deafness.

image Congenital heart defect.

image General Considerations

If it were not teratogenic, rubella would be of little clinical importance. Clinical diagnosis is difficult in some cases because of its variable expression. In one study, over 80% of infections were subclinical. Rubella is transmitted by aerosolized respiratory secretions. Patients are infectious 5 days before until 5 days after the rash. Endemic rubella is absent in the United States and the Americas, and congenital rubella in infants born to unimmunized women and the occasional woman who is reinfected in pregnancy, is now very rare. Sporadic cases occur in migrants to the United States.

image Clinical Findings

The incubation period is 14–21 days. The nondistinctive signs may make exposure history unreliable. A history of immunization makes rubella unlikely but still possible. Congenital rubella usually follows maternal infection in the first trimester.

A. Symptoms and Signs

1. Infection in children—Young children may only have rash. Older patients often have a nonspecific prodrome of low-grade fever, ocular pain, sore throat, and myalgia. Postauricular and suboccipital adenopathy (sometimes generalized) is characteristic. This often precedes the rash or may occur without rash. The rash consists of erythematous discrete maculopapules beginning on the face. A “slapped-cheek” appearance or pruritus may occur. Scarlatiniform or morbilliform rash variants may occur. The rash spreads quickly to the trunk and extremities after fading from the face; it is gone by the fourth day. Enanthema is usually absent.

2. Congenital infection—More than 80% of women infected in the first 4 months of pregnancy (25% near the end of the second trimester) deliver an affected infant; congenital disease occurs in less than 5% of women infected later in pregnancy. Later infections can result in isolated defects, such as deafness. The main manifestations are as follows:

A. GROWTH RETARDATIONBetween 50% and 85% of infants are small at birth and remain so.

B. CARDIAC ANOMALIESPulmonary artery stenosis, patent ductus arteriosus, ventricular septal defect.

C. OCULAR ANOMALIESCataracts, microphthalmia, glaucoma, retinitis.

D. DEAFNESSSensorineural (> 50% of cases).

E. CEREBRAL DISORDERSChronic encephalitis; retardation.

F. HEMATOLOGIC DISORDERSThrombocytopenia, dermal nests of extramedullary hematopoiesis or purpura (“blueberry muffin” rash), lymphopenia.

G. OTHERSHepatitis, osteomyelitis, immune disorders, malabsorption, diabetes.

B. Laboratory Findings

Leukopenia is common, and platelet counts may be low. Congenital infection is associated with low platelet counts, abnormal liver function tests, hemolytic anemia, and CSF pleocytosis. Total serum IgM is elevated, and IgA and IgG levels may be depressed.

Virus may be isolated from throat or urine from 1 week before to 2 weeks after onset of rash. Children with congenital infection are infectious for months. For optimal virus isolation, the virus laboratory must be notified that rubella is suspected. Serologic immunoassay diagnosis is best made by demonstrating a fourfold rise in antibody titer between specimens drawn 1–2 weeks apart. The first should be drawn promptly, because titers increase rapidly after onset of rash; both specimens must be tested simultaneously by a single laboratory. Very high rubella IgM antibody titers are also present. Because the decision to terminate a pregnancy is usually based on serologic results, testing must be done carefully.

C. Imaging

Pneumonitis and bone metaphyseal longitudinal lucencies may be present in radiographs of children with congenital infection.

image Differential Diagnosis

Rubella may resemble infections due to enterovirus, adenovirus, measles, EBV, roseola, parvovirus, and T gondii. Drug reactions may also mimic rubella. Because public health implications are great, sporadic suspected cases should be confirmed serologically or virologically.

Congenital rubella must be differentiated from congenital CMV infection, toxoplasmosis, and syphilis.

image Complications & Sequelae

A. Arthralgia and Arthritis

Both occur more often in adult women. Polyarticular involvement (fingers, knees, wrists), lasting a few days to weeks, is typical. Frank arthritis occurs in a small percentage of patients. It may resemble acute rheumatoid arthritis.

B. Encephalitis

With an incidence of about 1:6000, this is a nonspecific parainfectious encephalitis associated with a low mortality rate. A syndrome resembling SSPE (see section on Measles) has also been described in congenital rubella.

C. Rubella in Pregnancy

Infection in the mother is self-limited and not severe.

image Prevention

Rubella is one of the infections that could be eradicated (see Chapter 10 for the indication and efficacy of rubella vaccine). Standard prenatal care should include rubella antibody testing. Seropositive mothers are at no risk; seronegative mothers are vaccinated after delivery.

A pregnant woman possibly exposed to rubella should be tested immediately; if seropositive, she is immune and need not worry. If she is seronegative, a second specimen should be drawn in 4 weeks, and both specimens should be tested simultaneously. Seroconversion in the first trimester is associated with high fetal risk; such women require counseling regarding therapeutic abortion.

When pregnancy termination is not an option, some experts recommend intramuscular administration of immune globulin (up to 0.55 mL/Kg IM) within 72 hours after exposure in an attempt to prevent infection. (This negates the value of subsequent antibody testing.) The efficacy of this practice is unknown.

image Treatment & Prognosis

Symptomatic therapy is sufficient. Arthritis may improve with administration of anti-inflammatory agents. The prognosis is poor in congenitally infected infants, in whom most defects are irreversible or progressive. The severe cognitive defects in these infants seem to correlate closely with the degree of growth failure.

Andrus JK, de Quadros CA, Solorzano CC, Periago MR, Henderson DA: Measles and rubella eradication in the Americas. Vaccine 2011;29(Suppl 4):D91 [PMID: 22185837].

White SJ et al: Measles, mumps, and rubella. Clin Obstet Gynecol 2012;55(2):550 [PMID: 22510638].




image Influenza-like prodrome (fever, myalgia, headache, cough).

image Rapid onset of unexplained pulmonary edema and myocardiopathy.

image Residence or travel in endemic area; exposure to aerosols from deer mouse droppings or secretions.

image General Considerations

Hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome is the first native bunyavirus infection endemic in the United States. This syndrome is distinctly different in mode of spread (no arthropod vector) and clinical picture from other bunyavirus diseases.

image Clinical Findings

The initial cases of hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome involved travel to or residence in a limited area in the southwestern United States where there was a potential for exposure to the reservoir, the deer mouse. Since this and many other related rodents live in many other locales, the disease has been confirmed in more than 30 states and Canada. Epidemics occur when environmental conditions favor large increases in the rodent population and increased prevalence of virus in this reservoir.

A. Symptoms and Signs

After an incubation period of 1–3 weeks, onset is sudden, with a nonspecific virus-like prodrome: fever; back, hip, and leg pain; chills; headache; and nausea and vomiting. Abdominal pain may be present. Sore throat, conjunctivitis, rash, and adenopathy are absent, and respiratory symptoms are absent or limited to a dry cough. After 1–10 days (usually 3–7), dyspnea, tachypnea, and evidence of a pulmonary capillary leak syndrome appear. This often progresses rapidly over hours. Hypotension is common, not only from hypoxemia but also from myocardial dysfunction. Copious, amber-colored, nonpurulent secretions are common. Decreased cardiac output due to myocardiopathy and elevated systemic vascular resistance distinguish this disease from early bacterial sepsis.

B. Laboratory Findings

The hemogram shows leukocytosis with a prominent left shift and immunoblasts, thrombocytopenia, and hemoconcentration. Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) is elevated, as are liver function tests; serum albumin is low. Creatinine is elevated in some patients, and proteinuria is common. Lactic acidosis and low venous bicarbonate are poor prognostic signs. A serum IgM ELISA test is positive early in the illness. Otherwise, the diagnosis is made by specific staining of tissue or PCR, usually at autopsy.

C. Imaging

Initial chest radiographs are normal. Subsequent radiographs show bilateral interstitial infiltrates with the typical butterfly pattern of acute pulmonary edema, bibasilar airspace disease, or both. Significant pleural effusions are often present. These findings contrast with those of other causes of acute respiratory distress syndrome.

image Differential Diagnosis

In some geographic areas, plague and tularemia may be possibilities. Infections with viral respiratory pathogens and Mycoplasma have a slower tempo, do not elevate the LDH, and do not cause the hematologic changes seen in this syndrome. Q fever, psittacosis, toxin exposure, legionellosis, and fungal infections are possibilities, but the history, tempo of the illness, and blood findings, as well as the exposure history, should be distinguishing features. Hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome is a consideration in previously healthy persons with a febrile illness associated with unexplained pulmonary edema.

image Treatment & Prognosis

Ribavirin, to which hantaviruses and other bunyaviruses are susceptible, has not been demonstrated to alter the course of the illness. Management should concentrate on oxygen therapy and mechanical ventilation as required. Because of capillary leakage, Swan-Ganz catheterization to monitor cardiac output and inotropic support—rather than fluid therapy—should be used to maintain perfusion. Venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation can provide short-term support for selected patients. The strains of virus present in North America are not spread by person-to-person contact. No isolation is required. The case fatality rate is 30%–40%. Guidelines are available for reduction of exposure to the infectious agent.

MacNeil A, Ksiazek TG, Rollin PE: Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, United States, 1993–2009. Emerg Infect Dis 2011;17:1195 [PMID: 21762572].

Sargianou M et al: Hantavirus infections for the clinician: from case presentation to diagnosis and treatment. Crit Rev Microbiol 2012;38(4):317 [PMID: 22553984].



image No prior mumps immunization.

image Parotid gland swelling.

image Aseptic meningitis with or without parotitis.

image General Considerations

Mumps was one of the classic childhood infections; virus spread by the respiratory route attacked almost all unimmunized children (asymptomatically in 30%–40% of cases), and produced lifelong immunity. The vaccine is so efficacious that clinical disease is rare in immunized children. As a result of subclinical infections or childhood immunization, 95% of adults are immune, although immunity can wane in late adolescence. When susceptibles accumulate occasional epidemics (~400 cases in 2012) can occur, which are aborted by reimmunization of the at-risk population. Infected patients can spread the infection from 1 to 2 days prior to the onset of symptoms and for 5 additional days. The incubation period is 14–21 days.

A history of exposure to a child with parotitis is not proof of mumps exposure. In an adequately immunized individual, parotitis is usually due to another cause. Currently in the United States, less than one case is reported per 100,000 population.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

1. Salivary gland disease—Tender swelling of one or more glands, variable fever, and facial lymphedema are typical. Parotid involvement is most common; this is bilateral in 70% of patients. The ear is displaced upward and outward; the mandibular angle is obliterated. Systemic toxicity is usually absent. Parotid stimulation with sour foods may be quite painful. The orifice of the Stensen duct may be red and swollen; yellow secretions may be expressed, but pus is absent. Parotid swelling dissipates after 1 week.

2. Meningoencephalitis—Prior to widespread immunization, mumps was the most common cause of aseptic meningitis, which is usually manifested by mild headache or asymptomatic mononuclear pleocytosis. Fewer than 10% of patients have clinical meningitis or encephalitis. Cerebral symptoms do not correlate with parotid symptoms, which are absent in many patients with meningoencephalitis. Although neck stiffness, nausea, and vomiting can occur, encephalitic symptoms are rare (1:4000 cases of mumps); recovery in 3–10 days is the rule.

3. Pancreatitis—Abdominal pain may represent transient pancreatitis. Because salivary gland disease may elevate serum amylase, specific markers of pancreatic function (lipase, amylase isoenzymes) are required for assessing pancreatic involvement.

4. Orchitis, oophoritis—Involvement of the gonads is associated with fever, local tenderness, and swelling. Epididymitis is usually present. Orchitis is unusual in young children, but occurs in up to one-third of affected postpubertal males. Usually, it is unilateral and resolves in 1–2 weeks. Although one-third of infected testes atrophy, bilateral involvement and sterility are rare.

5. Other—Thyroiditis, mastitis (especially in adolescent females), arthritis, and presternal edema (occasionally with dysphagia or hoarseness) may be seen.

B. Laboratory Findings

Peripheral blood leukocyte count is usually normal. Up to 1000 cells/μL (predominantly lymphocytes) may be present in the CSF, with mildly elevated protein and normal to slightly decreased glucose. Viral culture or PCR tests of saliva, throat, urine, or spinal fluid may be positive for at least 1 week after onset. Paired sera assayed by ELISA or a single positive IgM antibody test are currently used for diagnosis.

image Differential Diagnosis

Mumps parotitis may resemble the following conditions: cervical adenitis (the jaw angle may be obliterated, but the ear does not usually protrude; the Stensen duct orifice is normal; leukocytosis and neutrophilia are observed), bacterial parotitis (pus in the Stensen duct, toxicity, exquisite tenderness), recurrent parotitis (idiopathic or associated with calculi), tumors or leukemia, and tooth infections. Many viruses, including parainfluenza, enteroviruses, EBV, CMV, and influenza virus, can cause parotitis. Parotid swelling in HIV infection is less painful and tends to be bilateral and chronic, but bacterial parotitis occurs in some children with HIV infection.

Unless parotitis is present, mumps meningitis resembles that caused by enteroviruses or early bacterial infection. An elevated amylase level is a useful clue in this situation. Isolated pancreatitis is not distinguishable from many other causes of epigastric pain and vomiting. Mumps is a classic cause of orchitis, but torsion, bacterial or chlamydial epididymitis, Mycoplasma infection, other viral infections, hematomas, hernias, and tumors must also be considered.

image Complications

The major neurologic complication is nerve deafness (usually unilateral) which can result in inability to hear high tones. It may occur without meningitis. Permanent damage is rare, occurring in less than 0.1% of cases of mumps. Aqueductal stenosis and hydrocephalus (especially following congenital infection), myocarditis, transverse myelitis, and facial paralysis are other rare complications.

image Treatment & Prognosis

Treatment is supportive and includes provision of fluids, analgesics, and scrotal support for orchitis. Systemic corticosteroids have been used for orchitis, but their value is anecdotal.

Mac Donald N, Hatchette T, Elkout L, Sarwal S: Mumps is back: why is mumps eradication not working? Adv Exper Med Biol 2011;697:197 [PMID: 20101201].

Ternavasio-de la Vega HG et al: Mumps orchitis in the post- vaccine era (1967–2009): a single-center series of 67 patients and review of clinical outcome and trends. Medicine 2010;89(2):96 [PMID: 20517181].

White SJ et al: Measles, mumps, and rubella. Clin Obstet Gynecol 2012;55(2):550 [PMID: 22510638].



image History of animal bite 10 days to 1 year (usually < 90 days) previously.

image Paresthesias or hyperesthesia in bite area.

image Progressive limb and facial weakness in some patients (dumb rabies; 30%).

image Irritability followed by fever, confusion, combativeness, muscle spasms (especially pharyngeal with swallowing) in all patients (furious rabies).

image Rabies antigen detected in corneal scrapings or tissue obtained by brain or skin biopsy; Negri bodies seen in brain tissue.

image General Considerations

Rabies remains a potentially serious public health problem wherever animal immunization is not widely practiced or when humans play or work in areas with sylvan rabies. Although infection does not always follow a bite by a rabid animal (about 40% infection rate), infection is almost invariably fatal. Any warm-blooded animal may be infected, but susceptibility and transmissibility vary with different species. Bats often carry and excrete the virus in saliva or feces for prolonged periods; they are the major cause of rabies in the United States. Dogs and cats are usually clinically ill within 10 days after becoming contagious (the standard quarantine period for suspect animals). Valid quarantine periods or signs of illness are not fully known for many species. Rodents rarely transmit infection. Animal vaccines are very effective when properly administered, but a single inoculation may fail to produce immunity in up to 20% of dogs.

The risk is assessed according to the type of animal (bats are always considered to have a high likelihood of being rabid; raccoons, skunks, foxes in many areas), wound extent and location (infection more common after head or hand bites, or if wounds have extensive salivary contamination and are not quickly and thoroughly cleaned), geographic area (urban rabies is rare to nonexistent in the U.S. cities; rural rabies is possible, especially outside the United States), and animal vaccination history (risk low if documented). Most rabies in the United States is caused by genotypes found in bats, yet a history of bat bite is often not obtained. Aerosolized virus in caves inhabited by bats has caused infection.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

Paresthesias at the bite site is usually the first symptom. Nonspecific anxiety, excitability, or depression follows, then muscle spasms, drooling, hydrophobia, delirium, and lethargy. Swallowing or even the sensation of air blown on the face may cause pharyngeal spasms. Seizures, fever, cranial nerve palsies, coma, and death follow within 7–14 days after onset. In a minority of patients, the spastic components are initially absent and the symptoms are primarily flaccid paralysis and cranial nerve defects. The furious components appear subsequently.

B. Laboratory Findings

Leukocytosis is common. CSF is usually normal, but may show elevation of protein and mononuclear cell pleocytosis. Cerebral imaging and electroencephalography are not diagnostic.

Infection in an animal may be determined by use of the fluorescent antibody test to examine brain tissue for antigen. Rabies virus is excreted in the saliva of infected humans, but the diagnosis is usually made by antigen detection in scrapings or tissue samples of richly innervated epithelium, such as the cornea or the hairline of the neck. Classic Negri cytoplasmic inclusion bodies in brain tissue are not always present. Seroconversion occurs after 7–10 days.

image Differential Diagnosis

Failure to elicit the bite history in areas where rabies is rare may delay diagnosis. Other disorders to be considered include parainfectious encephalopathy; encephalitis due to herpes simplex, mosquito-borne viruses, or other causes of viral encephalitis; and Guillain-Barré syndrome. However, classic furious rabies is not readily confused with these alternative diagnoses.

image Prevention

See Chapter 10 for information regarding vaccination and postexposure prophylaxis. Rabies immune globulin and diploid cell vaccine have made prophylaxis more effective and minimally toxic. Because rabies is almost always fatal, presumed exposures must be managed carefully.

image Treatment & Prognosis

Survival is very rare, but has been reported in patients receiving meticulous intensive care and a variety of antiviral therapies of unproven benefit. Early diagnosis is important for the protection and prophylaxis of individuals exposed to the patient.

Yousaf MZ et al: Rabies molecular virology, diagnosis, prevention and treatment. Virol J 2012;9:50 [PMID: 22348291].


Rickettsiae are pleomorphic, gram-negative coccobacilli that are obligate intracellular parasites. Rickettsial diseases are often included in the differential diagnosis of febrile rashes. Severe headache, myalgia, and pulmonary symptoms are prominent manifestations of rickettsial disease. The endothelium is the primary target tissue, and the ensuing vasculitis is responsible for severe illness.

All rickettsioses are transmitted by cutaneous arthropod contact (ticks, fleas, mice, lice—depending on the disease), either by bite or by contamination of skin breaks with vector feces. In all except Rocky Mountain spotted fever and murine typhus, there is a characteristic eschar at the bite site, called the tache noire. Evidence of such contact by history or physical examination may be completely lacking, especially in young children. The geographic distribution of the vector is often the primary determinant for suspicion of these infections. Therapy often must be empiric. Many new broad-spectrum antimicrobials are inactive against these cell wall–deficient organisms; tetracycline is usually effective.

Q fever, which is not rickettsiae, is included here because it was long classified as such and, like rickettsiae, is an obligate intracellular bacterium. It is not transmitted by an insect vector and is not characterized by rash.



image Residing or travel in endemic area when ticks are active.

image Tick bite noted (~75%).

image Fever, headache, rash (~67%), gastrointestinal symptoms.

image Leukopenia, thrombocytopenia, elevated serum transaminases, hypoalbuminemia.

image Definitive diagnosis by specific serology.

In children, the major agent of North American human ehrlichiosis is Ehrlichia chaffeensis. The reservoir hosts are probably wild rodents, deer, and sheep; ticks are the vectors. Most cases caused by this agent are reported in the south-central, southeastern, and middle Atlantic states. Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina are high-prevalence areas. Almost all cases occur between March and October, when ticks are active.

A second ehrlichiosis syndrome, seen in the upper Midwest and Northeast (Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York are high-prevalence areas), is caused by Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Ehrlichia ewingii. Anaplasmosis also occurs in the western United States. New pathogenic Ehrlichia species have been discovered recently.

E chaffeensis has a predilection for mononuclear cells, whereas A phagocytophilum and E ewingii infect and produce intracytoplasmic inclusions in granulocytes. Hence, diseases caused by these agents are referred to as human monocytic ehrlichiosis or human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, respectively. Ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, and babesiosis share some tick vectors; thus, dual infections are common and should be considered in patients who fail to respond to therapy.

image Clinical Findings

In approximately 75% of patients, a history of tick bite can be elicited. The majority of the remaining patients report having been in a tick-infested area. The usual incubation period is 5–21 days.

A. Symptoms and Signs

Fever is universally present and headache is common (less so in children). Gastrointestinal symptoms (abdominal pain, anorexia, nausea, and vomiting) are reported in most pediatric patients. Distal limb edema may occur. Chills, photophobia, conjunctivitis, and myalgia occur in more than half of patients. Rash occurs in two-thirds of children with monocytic ehrlichiosis, but is less common (~50%) in granulocytic ehrlichiosis. Rash may be erythematous, macular, papular, petechial, scarlatiniform, or vasculitic. Meningitis occurs. Interstitial pneumonitis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and renal failure occur in severe cases. Physical examination reveals rash (not usually palms and soles), mild adenopathy, and hepatomegaly. In children without a rash, infection may present as a fever of unknown origin.

B. Laboratory Findings

Laboratory abnormalities include leukopenia with left shift, lymphopenia, thrombocytopenia, and elevated aminotransferase levels. Hypoalbuminemia and hyponatremia are common. Disseminated intravascular coagulation can occur in severe cases. Anemia occurs in one-third of patients. CSF pleocytosis (mononuclear cells; increased protein) is common. The definitive diagnosis is made serologically, either by a single high titer or a fourfold rise in titer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses appropriate antigens in an immunofluorescent antibody test in order to distinguish between the etiologic agents. Intracytoplasmic inclusions (morulae) may occasionally be observed in mononuclear cells in monocytic ehrlichiosis, and are usually observed in polymorphonuclear cells from the peripheral blood or bone marrow in granulocytic ehrlichiosis. Specific PCR testing can provide an early diagnosis where this is available.

image Differential Diagnosis

In regions where these infections exist, ehrlichiosis should be included in the differential diagnosis of children who present during tick season with fever, leukopenia or thrombocytopenia (or both), increased serum transaminase levels and rash. The differential diagnosis includes septic or toxic shock, other rickettsial infections (especially Rocky Mountain spotted fever), Colorado tick fever, leptospirosis, Lyme borreliosis, relapsing fever, EBV, CMV, viral hepatitis and other viral infections, Kawasaki disease, systemic lupus erythematosus, and leukemia.

image Treatment & Prognosis

Asymptomatic or clinically mild and undiagnosed infections are common in some endemic areas. The disease may last several weeks if untreated. One-quarter of hospitalized children require intensive care. Meningoencephalitis and persisting neurologic deficits occur in 5%–10% of patients. Doxycycline, 2 mg/kg every 12 hours (IV or PO; maximum 100 mg per dose) for 7–10 days, is the treatment of choice. Patients with suspected disease must be treated preemptively concurrently with attempts to establish the diagnosis. Response to therapy should be evident in 24–48 hours. Deaths are uncommon in children but do occur. Immune compromise and asplenia are risk factors for severe disease.

Ismail N, Bloch KC, McBride JW: Human ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis. Clin Lab Med 2010;30(1):261 [PMID: 20513551].

St. Clair K, Decker CF: Ehrlichioses: anaplasmosis and human ehrlichiosis. Disease-A-Month 2012;58(6):346 [PMID: 22608121].



image Residing or travel in endemic area when ticks are active.

image Fever, rash (palms and soles), gastrointestinal symptoms, headache.

image Tick bite (50%).

image Thrombocytopenia, hyponatremia.

image Definitive diagnosis by specific serology.

Rickettsia rickettsii causes one of many similar tick-borne illnesses characterized by fever and rash that occur worldwide. Most are named after their geographic area. Dogs and rodents, as well as large mammals, are reservoirs of R rickettsii.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most severe rickettsial infection and the most important (~1000 cases per year) in the United States. It occurs predominantly along the eastern seaboard; in the southeastern states; and in Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. It is much less common in the west. Most cases occur in children exposed in rural areas from April to September. Because tick attachment lasting 6 hours or longer is needed, frequent tick removal is a preventive measure. Infection can be acquired from dog ticks.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

After the incubation period of 3–12 days (mean, 7 days), there is high fever (> 40°C, often hectic), usually of abrupt onset, myalgia, severe and persistent headache (retro-orbital), toxicity, photophobia, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. A rash occurs in more than 95% of patients and appears 2–6 days after fever onset as macules and papules; most characteristic (65%) is involvement of the palms, soles, and extremities. The rash becomes petechial and spreads centrally from the extremities. The rash reflects infection of endothelial cells, which also causes vascular leak and resulting edema, hypovolemia, and hypotension. Conjunctivitis, splenomegaly, pneumonitis, meningismus, and confusion may occur.

B. Laboratory Findings

Laboratory findings are nonspecific and reflect diffuse vasculitis: thrombocytopenia, hyponatremia, early mild leukopenia, proteinuria, mildly abnormal liver function tests, hypoalbuminemia, and hematuria. CSF pleocytosis is common. Serologic diagnosis is achieved with indirect fluorescent or latex agglutination antibody methods, but generally is informative only 7–10 days after onset of the illness. Skin biopsy with specific fluorescent staining is a specific and moderately sensitive diagnostic method available during the first week of the illness.

image Differential Diagnosis

The differential diagnosis includes meningococcemia, measles, meningococcal meningitis, staphylococcal sepsis, enteroviral infection, leptospirosis, Colorado tick fever, scarlet fever, murine typhus, Kawasaki disease, and ehrlichiosis.

image Treatment & Prognosis

To be effective, therapy for Rocky Mountain spotted fever must be started early, most often on the basis of a high clinical suspicion prior to rash onset in endemic areas. It is important to remember that atypical presentations, such as the absence of pathognomonic rash, often lead to delay in appropriate therapy. Rash is rarely present during the first day of diagnosis and in 50% within 3 days of onset of fever. Doxycycline is the treatment of choice for children, regardless of age. Dosing is 2 mg/kg every 12 hours (IV or PO; maximum 100 mg per dose) for 2 or 3 days after the temperature has returned to normal for a full day. A minimum of 10 days of therapy is recommended.

Complications and death result from severe vasculitis, especially in the brain, heart, and lungs. The mortality rate is 5%–7%. Persistent neurologic deficits occur in 10%–15% of children who recover. Delay in therapy is an important determinant of sequelae and mortality.

Graham J, Stockley K, Goldman RD: Tick-borne illnesses. Pediatr Emerg Care 2011;27(2):141 [PMID: 21293226].

Lin L, Decker CF: Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Disease-A-Month 2012;58(6):361 [PMID: 22608123].



image Residing in endemic area.

image Fever for 10–14 days.

image Headache, chills, myalgia.

image Maculopapular rash spreading from trunk to extremities (not on palms and soles) 3–7 days after fever onset.

image Definitive diagnosis by serology.

Endemic typhus is present in the southern United States, mainly in southern Texas, and in Southern California, and in Hawaii. The disease is transmitted by fleas from infected rodents or by inhalation. Domestic cats, dogs, and opossums may play a role in the transmission of suburban cases. No eschar appears at the inoculation site, which may go unnoticed. The incubation period is 6–14 days. Headache, myalgia and arthralgia, and chills slowly worsen. Fever may last 10–14 days. After 3–7 days, a rash appears. Truncal macules and papules spread to the extremities; the rash is rarely petechial. The rash resolves in less than 5 days. The location of the rash in typhus, with sparing of the palms and soles, helps distinguish the disease from Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Rash may be absent in 20%–40% of patients. Hepatomegaly may be present. Intestinal and respiratory symptoms may occur. Mild thrombocytopenia and elevated liver enzymes may be present. The illness is usually self-limited and milder than epidemic typhus. More prolonged neurologic symptoms have been described. Clinicians in endemic areas should consider early treatment when presented with a child with protracted fever, rash, and headache. Doxycycline is the drug of choice, which should be continued for 3 days after evidence of clinical improvement. Fluorescent antibody and ELISA tests are available.

Green JS et al: A cluster of pediatric endemic typhus cases in Orange County, California. Ped Infect Dis J 2011;30(2):163 [PMID: 21298850].

Liddel PW, Sparks MJ: Murine typhus: endemic Rickettsia in southwest Texas. Clin Lab Sci 2012;25(2):81 [PMID: 20120614].



image Exposure to farm animals (sheep, goats, cattle) and pets.

image Flulike illness (fever, severe headache, myalgia).

image Cough; atypical pneumonia.

image Hepatomegaly and hepatitis.

image Diagnosis by serology.

Coxiella burnetii is transmitted by inhalation rather than by an arthropod bite. Q fever is also distinguished from rickettsial diseases by the infrequent occurrence of cutaneous manifestations and by the prominence of pulmonary disease. The birth tissues and excreta of domestic animals and of some rodents are major infectious sources. The organisms may be carried long distances in fine particle aerosols. Unpasteurized milk from infected animals may also transmit disease.

image Clinical Findings

A. Symptoms and Signs

Most patients have a self-limited flulike syndrome of chills, fever, severe headache, and myalgia of abrupt onset occurring 10–25 days after exposure. Abdominal pain, vomiting, chest pain, and dry cough are prominent in children. Examination of the chest may produce few findings, as in other atypical pneumonias. Hepatosplenomegaly is common. The illness lasts 1–4 weeks and frequently is associated with weight loss. Only about 50% of infected patients develop significant symptoms, but develop serologic evidence of infection.

B. Laboratory Findings

Leukopenia with left shift is characteristic. Thrombocytopenia is unusual and another distinction from rickettsial diseases. Aminotransferase and γ-glutamyl transferase levels are elevated, but significant bilirubin elevation is unusual. Diagnosis is made by finding an antibody response (fourfold rise or single high titer in ELISA; IFA, or CF antibody assay) to the phase II organism. Chronic infection is indicated by antibody against the phase I organism. IgM ELISA and specific PCR tests are also available.

C. Imaging

Pneumonitis occurs in 50% of patients. Multiple segmental infiltrates are common, but the radiographic appearance is not pathognomonic. Consolidation and pleural effusion are rare.

image Differential Diagnosis

In the appropriate epidemiologic setting, Q fever should be considered in evaluating causes of atypical pneumonias, such as M pneumoniae, viruses, Legionella, and C pneumoniae. It should also be included among the causes of mild to moderate hepatitis without rash or adenopathy in children with exposure to farm animals.

image Treatment & Prognosis

Typically the illness lasts 1–2 weeks without therapy. The course of the uncomplicated illness is shortened with doxycycline. Therapy is continued for several days after the patient becomes afebrile (usually 10–14 days). Quinolones are also effective.

One complication is chronic disease, which often implies myocarditis or granulomatous hepatitis. Meningoencephalitis is a rare complication. C burnetii is also one of the causes of so-called culture-negative endocarditis. Coxiella endocarditis often occurs in the setting of valve abnormalities and is difficult to treat; mortality approaches 50%.

Gikas A et al: Q fever: clinical manifestations and treatment. Expert Rev Anti Infect Ther 2010;8(5):529 [PMID: 20455682].

Leshem E, Meltzer E, Schwartz E: Travel-associated zoonotic bacterial diseases. Curr Opin Infect Dis 2011;24(5):457 [PMID: 21788890].