Deadly virus known as ‘modern polio’
Deadly virus known as ‘modern polio’

FIRST ON 7: A special panel of doctors has been set up to investigate an outbreak in Sydney of a new super virus, linked to the deaths of four children.

One hundred more have been infected by the highly contagious virus which is being called "modern polio".

The Sword family has photos and memories, but they cannot hold their baby Bethany, who died aged 19 months from EV71.

"In the space of two days, she'd gone from a relatively healthy kid to gone," father Luke Sword said.

Enterovirus 71 has killed hundreds in Asia. It was first noticed among toddlers on the Northern Beaches.

"That night [my daughter's] heart rate monitor went of five times before I even realised that something wasn't right," Sydney mother Saartje Destoop-Timmony said.

Zali spent a week in hospital after picking up the virus spread through bodily fluids like saliva at childcare.

The virus is a strain of the common hand, foot and mouth disease and similar to polio which is deadly, but now eradicated.

Doctors say if you notice symptoms like high fever, drowsiness, a blister-like rash, jerky movements, unsteadiness on feet, and heart and lung inflammation then you should seek help.

Symptoms of enterovirus 71. Photo: 7News

"I understand they don't want to scare the population, but on the other hand I felt like I wasn't educated about it," mother Saartje Destoop-Timmony said.

When a child arrives in hospital there is no magic bullet drug or treatment, they are simply prescribed fluids and bedrest.

It is a virus worrying doctors because they know little about it, including why it is killing some kids, and not others.

A special medical panel has been set up.

"We're very much working with the hospitals to learn as much as we can about the disease in Australia as we can," Dr Vicki Shepherd said.

The New South Wales Health Minister says the department always takes "these outbreaks very seriously."

"I'm advised by the experts but this is not something that should panic people." Jillian Skinner said.

The Sword family has photos and memories, but they cannot hold their baby Bethany, who died aged 19 months from EV71. Photo: 7News

Parents are being urged to make sure their children wash their hands thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom, and before eating. And to use a tissue when sneezing.

Children under five are most at risk especially those under two. If you notice any of the symptoms listed above, you should seek help.

HAVE YOUR SAY | We are asking what you think health officials should be doing to warn parents? You can join the conversation on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

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