Virus hits kids in at least 10 states

Enterovirus D68 hospitalizing hundreds of kids

September 8, 2014

Health officials in at least 10 states have reported hundreds of cases of a respiratory illness that has sent scores of children to emergency rooms and, in some cases, even to intensive care units.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the enterovirus causing the hospitalizations in the Midwest could get much worse.

Hospitals in Colorado, Missouri and potentially eight other states are admitting hundreds of children for treatment of an uncommon but severe respiratory virus.

The virus, called Enterovirus D68, causes similar symptoms to a summer cold or asthma: a runny nose, fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. But the illness can quickly escalate, and there are no vaccines or antiviral medications to prevent or treat it.

The high number of hospitalizations could be “just the tip of the iceberg in terms of severe cases,” said Mark Pallansch, director of the CDC’s Division of Viral Diseases.

“We’re in the middle of looking into this,” he told CNN on Sunday. “WE don’t have all the answers yet.”

Until recently, Enterovirus 68 was only thought to cause sporadic infections, but there have been reports of more widespread outbreaks in Georgia, Pennsylvania and Arizona between 2008 and 2010.

Only Missouri and Illinois have confirmed cases of EV-D68, but cases with similar symptoms have been reported in Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma as well.

Enteroviruses like his one are fairly common. Summer colds are often attributed to enteroviruses that peak in September during the seasonal transition. What’s unusual is the high number of hospitalizations of children.

“It’s worse in terms of scope of critically ill children who require intensive care. I would call it unprecedented. I’ve practiced for 30 years in pediatrics, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” said Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, the Children’s Mercy Hospital’s division director for infectious diseases in Kansas City.

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