Written by Michael Muskal
Los Angeles Times
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is testing samples for a rare virus known as Enterovirus D68 that could be responsible for the respiratory illnesses of scores of children in 10 states across the nation.
Hundreds of children have been treated and many who have lung conditions such as asthma have been hospitalized. The states include Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky.
No deaths have been reported.
"CDC is communicating often with state health departments that are investigating suspected clusters of respiratory illness, and we have received specimens for laboratory testing," Benjamin N. Haynes, senior spokesman for the CDC Infectious Disease Team said in an email to the Los Angeles Times on Monday morning. The health agency has scheduled a full briefing for later in the day.
Officials at Children's Hospital Colorado said they have treated more than 900 children since Aug. 18 for severe respiratory illness and admitted 86 to the hospital, according to the Denver Post.
"We've been seeing a very high volume in our ER, ICU and among hospitalized patients. The hospital is very, very full," Dr. Christine Nyquist, a pediatric infectious disease physician, told the newspaper. "Kids are getting (the virus) and having asthma complications."
In Missouri, a pediatric hospital in Kansas City reported more than 300 cases of respiratory illnesses, according to the state Department of Health & Senior Services. Approximately 15 percent of those illnesses have resulted in children being placed in an intensive care unit, the agency said.
According to Missouri officials, tests have show that most of the cases were caused by infection from Enterovirus D68. It was unclear whether the same pathogen is the cause of the other outbreaks.The virus is related to rhinovirus, which causes the common cold. There is no specific vaccine for D68.
Symptoms are similar to an intense cold. But for those with asthma and other lung diseases, there can be complications that require hospitalization.
According to the CDC, enteroviruses cause between 10 million and 15 million infections a year, often hitting children who are in closer physical contact in schools and play areas than are most adults in the workplace. The start of school after summer vacation is considered a peak season for the infections.
Officials recommend the usual common-sense precautions including washing hands and avoiding sharing utensils with those who are infected. Those who are ill are urged to stay home.
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