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Gastrointestinal

ECHO virus

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Definition

Enteric cytopathic human orphan (ECHO) viruses are a group of viruses that lead to gastrointestinal infection and skin rashes.

Alternative Names

Nonpolio enterovirus infection; Echovirus infection

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Echovirus is one of several families of viruses that affect the gastrointestinal tract collectively called enteroviruses. These infections are common. In the US, they are most common in the summer and fall. You can catch the virus if you come into contact with stools contaminated by the virus, and possibly by breathing in air particles from an infected person.

Serious infections with ECHO viruses are less common, but can be significant. As many as 1 in 5 cases of viral meningitis is caused by an ECHO virus.

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the site of infection but may include:

  • Viral meningitis
  • Croup
  • Encephalitis
  • Mouth sores (herpangina)
  • Myocarditis
  • Pericarditis
  • Pneumonia
  • Skin rashes
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Sore throat

Signs and tests

Because the illness is often mild and has no specific treatment, specific testing for echovirus is often not done.

ECHO virus can be identified from:

  • Rectal culture
  • Spinal fluid culture
  • Stool culture
  • Throat culture

Treatment

ECHO virus infections tend to clear up on their own. No specific antiviral medications are available. Immune system treatment called IVIG may help patients with severe ECHO virus infections who have a weakened immune system.

Expectations (prognosis)

Complete recovery without treatment is expected in patients who have the less severe types of illness. Infections of organs such as the heart (pericarditis and myocarditis) may cause severe disease and can be deadly.

Complications

Complications vary with the site and type of infection. Myocarditis and pericarditis may be deadly while most other types of infection improve on their own.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of any of the diseases listed above.

Prevention

No specific preventive measures are available for ECHO virus infections other than hand-washing, especially when you are in contact with sick people. Currently, no vaccines are available.

References

Modlin JF. Enterovirus infections. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 402.

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