BK Virus

BK Virus Infection

BK virus is a common infection that can cause a mild respiratory illness. It is also called polyomavirus. After the first infection, the virus remains in the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract, but it is inactive (latent).

BK virus very rarely causes problems in healthy people. Once the virus becomes inactive, a person may never have any more symptoms.

If your body’s defense system (immune system) is weak, the BK virus may become active again. If this happens, the virus can cause inflammation in the urinary tract and can damage the kidneys.

What are the causes?

A weakened immune system can reactivate the BK virus and cause an infection. Many things can weaken the immune system, including:

  • Diseases or medical conditions, such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), and diabetes.
  • Chemotherapy and other medicines that suppress or weaken the immune system.
  • Solid organ transplants, especially kidney transplants.
  • Bone marrow transplants.
  • Stem cell transplants.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of a BK virus infection include:

  • Blurry vision.
  • Brown or red urine.
  • Painful or difficult urination.
  • Urinating more than usual.
  • Flu-like symptoms, including fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and weakness.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Coughing.
  • Seizures.

Sometimes, a BK virus infection may not cause any symptoms.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed based on your symptoms, your medical history, and a physical exam. The exam may include blood and urine tests to confirm the diagnosis and evaluate how well your kidneys are working. To confirm the diagnosis, your health care provider may need to take a small sample of your kidney and have it examined (biopsy).

How is this treated?

If you have mild BK virus symptoms, treatment may not be needed. Treatment for a more severe BK virus infection may include:

  • Medicine for pain or discomfort.
  • Antiviral medicines to lower the amount of BK virus in the body.
  • IV fluids to help wash (flush) the virus out of the bladder.

If you are taking medicine that suppresses the immune system (immunosuppressant) or prevents the body from rejecting a transplanted organ (anti-rejection medicine), the dosage of the medicine may be adjusted or lowered.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Return to your normal activities as told by your health care provider. Ask what activities are safe for you.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Drink enough fluid to keep your urine pale yellow.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have new or worsening symptoms.
  • You have pain or discomfort while urinating.
  • Your urine is brownish or bloody.
  • You have pain or cramping in your abdomen.
  • You have vision changes.
  • You have swelling in your feet and lower legs.

Get help right away if:

  • You have severe pain and cramping in the back or abdomen.
  • You have trouble breathing.

Summary

  • BK virus is a common infection that can cause a mild respiratory illness. After the first infection, the virus remains inactive (latent) in the urinary system. It may become active again if you have a weak body defense system (immune system).
  • To confirm the diagnosis, your health care provider may need to do blood and urine tests and take a small sample of your kidney and have it examined (biopsy).
  • Treatment for a more severe BK virus infection may include medicines and IV fluids.

BK Virus Infection, Pediatric

BK virus is a common infection that can cause a mild respiratory illness. It is also called polyomavirus. Most children or teens are exposed to this virus in childhood. After the first infection, the virus remains in the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract, but it is inactive (latent). BK virus very rarely causes problems in healthy children. Once the virus becomes inactive, a person may never have any more symptoms.

If a child’s body’s defense system (immune system) is weak, the BK virus may become active again. If this happens, the virus can cause inflammation in the urinary tract and can damage the kidneys.

What are the causes?

A weakened immune system can reactivate the BK virus and cause an infection. Many things can weaken the immune system, including:

  • Diseases or medical conditions, such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), and diabetes.
  • Chemotherapy and other medicines that suppress or weaken the immune system.
  • Solid organ transplants, especially kidney transplants.
  • Bone marrow transplants.
  • Stem cell transplants.

What are the signs or symptoms?

Symptoms of a BK virus infection include:

  • Blurry vision.
  • Brown or red urine.
  • Painful or difficult urination.
  • Urinating more than usual.
  • Flu-like symptoms, including fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and weakness.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Coughing.
  • Seizures.

Sometimes, a BK virus infection may not cause any symptoms.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition is diagnosed based on your child’s symptoms, his or her medical history, and a physical exam. The exam may include blood and urine tests to confirm the diagnosis and evaluate how well your child’s kidneys are working. To confirm the diagnosis, your child’s health care provider may need to take a small sample of your child’s kidney and have it examined (biopsy).

How is this treated?

If your child has mild BK virus symptoms, treatment may not be needed. Treatment for a more severe BK virus infection may include:

  • Medicine for pain or discomfort.
  • Antiviral medicines to lower the amount of BK virus in the body.
  • IV fluids to help wash (flush) the virus out of the bladder.

If your child is taking medicine that suppresses the immune system (immunosuppressant) or prevents the body from rejecting a transplanted organ (anti-rejection medicine), the dosage of the medicine may be adjusted or lowered.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Give your child over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your child’s health care provider.
  • Have your child drink enough fluid to keep his or her urine pale yellow.
  • Have your child return to her or his normal activities as told by your child’s health care provider. Ask what activities are safe for your child.

Keep all follow-up visits as told by your child’s health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your child has new or worsening symptoms.
  • Your child has pain or discomfort while urinating.
  • Your child’s urine is brownish or bloody.
  • Your child has pain or cramping in the abdomen.
  • Your child has vision changes.
  • Your child has swelling in the feet and lower legs.

Get help right away if:

  • Your child has severe pain and cramping in the back or abdomen.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.

Summary

  • BK virus is a common infection that can cause a mild respiratory illness. After the first infection, the virus remains inactive (inactive) in your child’s urinary system. It may become active again if your child has a weak body defense system (immune system).
  • To confirm the diagnosis, your child’s health care provider may need to do blood and urine tests and take a small sample of your kidney and have it examined (biopsy).
  • Treatment for a more severe BK virus infection may include medicines and IV fluids.
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