Virus kills two children

Two children have died in the Fernando Fonseca Hospital, in Amadora-Sintra, near Lisbon, after contracting ‘adenovirus’ – a virus that is particularly threatening to children. And reports indicate that another 26 children are also infected. The virus weakens the immune system and led to the children developing pneumonia. The same infection killed eight children last year, six in Guimarães and two in Porto.

Aside from the two victims (a 20-month-old boy and a six-month-old girl), three more children, all boys, aged between four and six months, remained in the same hospital, suffering from respiratory infections, at the beginning of this week. The most recent of the cases to emerge was admitted to the hospital at the end of last week. The two children who died in the hospital were admitted on April 6. As the girl’s condition deteriorated, she was hooked up to a ventilator, but later succumbed to cardiac arrest.

Specialist teams from the Ricardo Jorge Institute have now been charged with the task of finding out more about the origin of the epidemic and are investigating the hospital area in which the children died – the nursery unit and physiotherapy department.

As of the beginning of this week, there were 26 children infected with the virus and the Director General of Health (DGS) admits the number could rise. A communiqué from the DGS stated that, of the 26 cases, 12 are hospitalised and 14 are at home under close medical supervision. As for the origin of the virus, Francisco George, the Assistant Director-General of Health,would only say that investigations are continuing. “There was a chain of contagion in the nursery units that received two of the children,” he said. “Infections through the adenovirus are relatively frequent at this time of year, seriously affecting children under two.”

A leading medical expert told The Resident that the virus was by no means new and certainly not exclusive to Portugal: “It is not a dangerous virus, but there is a strain of the virus that can be particularly aggressive. Those most vulnerable are young children or the very old. An outbreak of the adenovirus in a new born baby unit would be a particular problem.”