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What is HHV6?

Herpes human virus 6, or HHV6 is the sixth member of the herpes family. It is common for children to activate this virus in the first two years of their life and it is known to be self limiting. In an immunocompetent person (someone with a normal functioning immune system) this virus may present with a fever and/ or rash and will often resolve itself within a week.

In an immunocompromised patient, for example, someone who has had a bone marrow transplant- and in particular, in a patient who is devoid of T cells, the same principles do not apply and correct management of the virus must be implemented for better outcomes.

HHV6 is known to be an opportunistic virus, this means it is not cell specific- however it does have a preference, with those cells being T cells. T cells are vital for a healthy immune system, as it is these cells that fight virus, infection and disease.

HHV6 can present in an immunocompromised setting with certain red flags:

  • Unexplained fever
  • Rash
  • Delayed engraftment
  • Bone marrow suppression
  • Decreased appetite
  • Diahorrea

If the virus is not managed correctly; immunosuppression removed and if still unresponsive, anti virals administered, it can led to disease progression, with HHV6 potentially causing the following:

  • Hepatitis
  • Pneumonitis
  • Myelitis
  • Seizures
  • Encephalitis
  • T cell immunodeficiency
  • Death