Within the last month a mysterious respiratory illness targeting children has sprouted up within 10 states and is expected to spread across the United States. Doctors believe the mysterious virus is the Human Enterovirus 68 (HEV68) a rare respiratory virus that is similar to the human rhinovirus. Children are experiencing cold like symptoms of coughing, sneezing, and runny noses that quickly worsen within a 24-hour period. This respiratory virus is more potent than the average cold, causing non-asthma children to suddenly start wheezing and those with asthma to require hospitalization.
Already 900 cases were reported at the Children’s Hospital Colorado in Denver in just the past three weeks. Eighty six of these cases were admitted to the hospital after experiencing difficulty breathing. In Quincy, Illinois, the Blessing Hospital saw over 70 patients during Labor Day weekend that matched symptoms consistent with HEV68. The other states showing suspect HEV68 cases were reported in Missouri, Kentucky, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina and Georgia. It appears the virus in making it’s way across the Midwest towards the East Coast. ABC New Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser told Good Morning America, “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 virus was first identified in California back in 1962. It has since rarely been seen and never to this level of reported cases. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention are actively investigating the sudden spike of cases.
Health experts suggest the spike in the number of cases may be related to children going back to school and spreading germs amongst each other. They also think that the summer time allergies have played a hand in assisting the HEV68’s severity. Children with asthma who are already battling the summer allergies, are now double whammy with HEV68. Their respiratory systems cannot fight off both attacks even with the help of inhalers. In these cases, the children are being hospitalized to stabilize their breathing.
Doctors suggest parents remind their children to wash hands frequently and to always cover mouth when coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs. They also suggest parents that have children with asthma make sure their children carry their inhalers with them at all times If the child’s cold symptoms remain traditional to the common cold, the experts advise it is best to keep the child at home to recover instead of bring to the hospitals where exposure to more germs is greater. Only when the parent sees their child start wheezing and having difficulty breathing, do health experts recommend seeking medical attention immediately.
Mohney, Gillian, and Dean Schabner. “Unidentified Respiratory Virus Likely to Hit Kids Across Country.” Yahoo. September 8, 2014. Accessed November 2, 2014.