Virus Alert: Hundreds of Children Flock to ER With Respiratory Illness

September 7, 2014  |  

A respiratory virus making its way through the Midwest is sending children to the ER in droves. And unlike many other contagious illnesses, which might pass through children’s schools causing an influx in sick days, this virus is sending some children to the intensive care unit.

Symptoms of the illness are much like that of a bad cold—except worse. Fever, body and muscle aches, sneezing, coughing and rash are frequent symptoms seen by one hospital. And as tests are conducted on children who are admitted to the hospital with the condition, the exact cause of it is unknown.

According to Jake Jacobson, a spokesman for Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, about 450 children were recently treated at the hospital with about 60 of them receiving intensive hospitalization.

Dr. Mary Anne Jackson tells CNN she’s never seen an illness spread as quickly and rapacious as this particular one, “It’s worse in terms of scope of critically ill children who require intensive care,” she says. She continued, “I would call it unprecedented. I’ve practiced for 30 years in pediatrics, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this.”

She says the hospital saw a sharp spike in cases after school started on August 17th. But Kansas City isn’t the only place with such reports. At Children’s Hospital Colorado more than 900 have flocked to the emergency room and urgent care location since August 18th. Symptoms reported are nearly identical to those in Kansas City. And the same can be said for East Columbus, Ohio’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which saw a 20 percent increase in patients with respiratory illnesses. And Quincy, Illinois saw more than 70 children with respiratory issues just last weekend.

The Center for Disease Control says a number of children in Kansas City tested positive for Enterovirus D68, or EV-D68. And with a vaccine currently unavailable and no specific treatment guaranteed to rid a person of the virus, doctors are forced to closely monitor and treat the illness as best they can.

“Many infections will be mild and self-limited, requiring only symptomatic treatment,” the agency reports to CNN. It continued,“Some people with several respiratory illness caused by EV-D68 may need to be hospitalized and receive intensive supportive therapy.”

According to medical data and research, there are more than 100 types of enteroviruses, which cause up to 15 million U.S. infections per year, although this particular strain, EV-D68 isn’t as common.

“Unlike the majority of enteroviruses that cause a clinical disease manifesting as a mild upper respiratory illness, febile rash, or neurologic illness, EV-D68 has been associated almost exclusively with respiratory disease,” one Missouri health agency tells CNN.

While doctors and patients alike await testing results to figure out exactly what type of illness they are dealing with, experts advise individuals to wash their hands with soap and water often for 20 seconds, and avoid close contact with those who are ill.

It is also suggested that parents monitor the health of their children, as reports of the illness are new, increasing and popping up in different cities at a fairly rapid pace.

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