Boonah baby defies deadly parechovirus

BIG SCARE: Kymberley Foelz of Boonah and her 3-month-old son Henry who is recovering from the deadly parechovirus.
BIG SCARE: Kymberley Foelz of Boonah and her 3-month-old son Henry who is recovering from the deadly parechovirus. David Nielsen And Rob Williams

HENRY Foelz has a deceptively relaxed smile.

As the Boonah three-month-old grins and gurgles at his mum, it is hard to believe the little boy has brushed against death twice in his short life.

Henry is one of seven newborns across West Moreton in the past three months to be diagnosed with the dangerous parechovirus.

To adults, parechovirus is little more than a cold.

To babies aged under three months, it is a more dangerous disease that can occasionally cause brain damage, meningitis and blood infections.

Henry was isolated in Ipswich Hospital's Sunshine Ward in the final days of 2015 as nurses and doctors tried to keep his body working.

He was then only a month old and had already survived a traumatic birth where mum Kymberley Foelz believed he had died.

Henry had been diagnosed with a case of bronchiolitis.

When Henry began to sleep more and eat far less, Kymberley thought it was simply symptoms of the chest infections.

Kymberley rushed Henry to Boonah Hospital on December 27 after his legs began to turn blue.

"They immediately started to run tests," she said.

Mum and bub were both taken to Ipswich Hospital, where staff in the Sunshine Ward began to stabilise Henry's vitals and attempt to diagnose what was wrong.

Henry required a cannula in his head and hand, a nasogastric tube for feeding and was kept in isolation for his four days in hospital.

It wasn't until December 29 on his third day in hospital that tests confirmed he had parechovirus.

Kymberley said her son reached a high temperature of 40.5 degrees during the worst of it and lost about two kilograms, putting him under his birth weight.

"I've never seen something so vicious to babies," she said.

"It's quite sad to see a little baby go through that."

Kymberley said Henry had begun to settle back into routine last week and had regained the weight lost while he was ill.

She hoped Henry's story would help other parents recognise the disease and do what they can to prevent it spreading.

Kymberley also paid tribute to the nurses and doctors who saved Henry's life and helped husband Scott and daughter Charlotte through the ordeal.

"When we got to the hospital, I thought he was pretty much gone - again. I thought oh here we go. I've had four weeks with my son and that's all I'm going to get," she said.

"It's a lot for a mum to trust someone she doesn't know, but they made it really easy. I owe them my life... they saved my son."

"If not for our doctors and our ambo drivers... I don't think Henry would have been here."

Parechovirus is spread via contact with respiratory droplets, saliva or faeces. There is no vaccine and no specific treatment.

Thankfully for other mums and dads, the rates of parechovirus in the Ipswich region appear to have slowed.

Ipswich Hospital director of paediatrics Dr John Gavranich said no cases had been admitted in the past month following a rush of cases in December.

"We've got reasonably good at picking it," he said.

The disease was first noticed in Australia in late 2013 and is notifiable in the same way that influenza is.

Dr Gavranich said good hygiene would help protect newborns in the community.

He urged parents to wash their hands and be aware of who spends time with their newborn.

"It's a virus that's spread easily," he said. "The best protection is good hand hygiene."

Parechovirus symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Irritability, lack of eating or lethargy
  • High temperature
  • Diarrhoea

Topics:  boonah editors picks health newborns parechovirus

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