Hundreds of school-aged children have been hit with a respiratory illness recently identified as Enterovirus D-68. Last seen in the United States some 50 years ago, the virus may affect some people without any obvious symptoms, while others experience severe illness.
The virus D-68 affects the gastrointestinal tract. However, its symptoms are difficulty breathing and wheezing, and can be very dangerous to those with existing respiratory illnesses. At most risk are children between birth and age five.
The virus spreads most commonly by improper bathroom habits. It can live on surfaces and can be spread by touching hands to mouth. Symptoms are similar to the common cold and can include coughing, runny nose, body aches and a possible fever. In those who have asthma or other respiratory diseases, this virus can cause the inability to catch one’s breath or get sufficient oxygen into the lungs.
The current treatment options are limited to symptom management and keeping the affected individual as comfortable as possible. Severe cases may need oxygen therapy. Dr. Ulysses Wu of St. Francis Hospital says, “If you see dangerous symptoms in your children,” of respiratory distress these should not be overlooked. Parents are urged to seek a health care professional for further evaluation. So far, there have been no associated deaths reported.
The spread of the virus has many officials alarmed. There are 21 states now reporting similar symptoms. From the Northwest to the Northeast to the Midwest with reports now coming in from Arizona and California. Spurning concern of hundreds of additional school-age children at risk for for being hit with this respiratory illness. Further testing is being done by the Centers For Disease Control for official confirmation in these new cases.
Freeport Memorial Hospital in Illinois, as of September 15, 2014, has enacted visitation restrictions to reduce the threat of further spreading. No visitors exhibiting respiratory illness or symptoms will be allowed to visit, nor will anyone under the age of 12 . The number of visitors being allowed has also been reduced. If visitation is mandatory, the hospital will be providing masks.
Although not yet confirmed, potential cases are being seen as far north as Canada. Windsor General Hospital in Ontario has released a statement regarding the sudden increase in the number of respiratory illness cases being seen over the past few days. They have also instituted visitation restrictions in the pediatric unit of the hospital.
Doctors are baffled as to where this virus has come from. Given the time of year and specific group of affected individuals, this type of virus is not unusual. However, the volume of children being seen is very high. The CDC says there is a general uptick in the number of respiratory illnesses in the late summer to early autumn months. One possible explanation is that school-aged children are returning to school after Summer break.
At this time, there is no known vaccine. The public is being urged to follow good personal hygiene protocol. This includes frequent hand washing with soap and water and making sure that surfaces are frequently wiped down. In an effort to save hundreds of school-aged children from potentially being hit with the respiratory illness, experts recommend that by covering their coughs by coughing into their elbows along with previously mentioned hand washing and cleaning. Since the virus spreads easily by close contact, sick people exhibiting respiratory symptoms are encouraged to stay at home during illness. Health officials hope these steps will limit the spread to other school bound kids at risk for this respiratory illness.
By Lori Chapman Sifers