According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the virus is related to the rhinovirus, which is often responsible for the common cold has morphed into what is being called enterovirus 68.
While the virus has only popped up in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Georgia, that’s not expected to last.
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Respiratory Illness: Viruses and their tendencies to spread
“Viruses don’t tend to respect borders,” ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser said. “It is only 10 states now, but it’s going to be across the country. So if your state doesn’t have it now, watch for it, it’s coming.”
The timing of the virus and the fact that it is back-to-school season is hardly a coincidence as many children return from out-of-state vacations and have a nagging need to share.
“This is a very common time for outbreaks. Kids come back to school, they like to share things, they bring them home to their little brothers and sisters, and enteroviruses tend to occur in the summer,” Besser said. “But this one, this particular Enterovirus 68, is very rare and they have no idea why it showed up this year.”
While the symptoms begin with those of the common cold, 68 seems to keep going and has been especially tough on children already suffering from asthma.
Respiratory Illness: Asthma sufferers are at highest risk
“The kids are coming in with respiratory symptoms, their asthma is exacerbated,” said Dr. Christine Nyquist, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “Kids with no wheezing are having wheezing.”
At her hospital between Aug. 18 and Sept. 4, doctors saw more than 900 pediatric patients arrive with symptoms and while most were discharged after treatment nearly 10% were hospitalized with some ultimately finding their way to the ICU.
In Colorado, as well, the virus is showing up at the same time as many kids are already suffering from seasonal allergies according to Nyquist.
“Any kind of viral infection can kick off wheezing and asthmas,” she said. “People with asthma know what triggers their asthma. A viral infection is one thing and this is the one that is circulating.”
Of the few who have been put in the ICU, a number have been given sedatives and a breathing tube for over a week prior to being released.
The CDC suggests standard hand washing, avoiding sick people, and hoping that other people’s kids are taught to cover their mouths and noses when sneezing.