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ECHO virus

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

Echovirus is one of several families of viruses that affect the gastrointestinal tract. Together, these are called "enteroviruses." These infections are common. In the United States, they are most common in the summer and fall. You can catch the virus if you come into contact with stool 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. For example, up to 1 in 5 cases of viral meningitis (inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) is caused by an ECHO virus.

Symptoms

You may not have any symptoms. Symptoms depend on the site of infection and may include:

  • Croup (breathing difficulty and harsh cough)
  • Mouth sores
  • Skin rashes
  • Sore throat

Exams and Tests

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

ECHO virus can be identified from:

Treatment

ECHO virus infections almost always clear up on their own. No specific medicines are available to fight the virus. Immune system treatment called IVIG may help people with severe ECHO virus infections who have a weakened immune system.

Outlook (Prognosis)

People who have the less severe types of illness should recover completely without treatment. Infections of organs such as the heart may cause severe disease and can be deadly.

Possible Complications

ECHO viruses may cause these complications:

  • Brain infection
  • Meningitis
  • Inflammation of the heart muscle or heart lining
  • Pneumonia
  • Upper respiratory infection

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

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have any of the symptoms 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

Romero JR. Enteroviruses. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 387.

Romero JR, Modlin JF. Introduction to the human enteroviruses and parechoviruses. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2014:chap 172.


Review Date: 12/7/2014
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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