Illinois one of 10 states to see spike in respiratory virus among children

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Illinois is among ten states that have reported a spike of a suspected rare respiratory virus that has sent hundreds of children to hospitals across the Midwest.

Children with asthma and other health problems are especially at risk, but reported cases include children without asthma who have developed asthma-like breathing problems, said Mark Pallansch, director of the viral diseases division at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said no deaths have been reported in the outbreak.

The suspected germ, enterovirus 68, is an uncommon strain of a very common family of viruses that typically hit from summertime through the fall. The virus can cause mild coldlike symptoms but this summer’s cases are unusually severe, Pallansch told the Associated Press.

“It’s not highly unusual but we’re trying to understand what happened this year in terms of these noticeable and much larger clusters of severe respiratory disease,” Pallansch said Monday

Besides Illinois, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and Oklahoma have seen suspected outbreaks. The Center for Disease Control is assisting states in investigating Enterovirus EV-D68 as a cause, according to CNN. While there is no specific treatment available for EV-D68, infections are generally mild, requiring only basic care.

Enteroviruses are common, infecting 10 to 15 million people in the United States every year,according to the Missouri Department of Health & Human Services.What makes this outbreak unusual is the number of people hospitalized. One pediatric hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, has experienced more than 300 cases alone.

Authorities in Illinois and Colorado said their states are among those with suspected or confirmed cases.

Downstate Blessing Hospital has seen more than 70 children displaying symptoms and admitted seven for treatment, the Quincy Herald-Whig reports. The hospital has restricted visitors under the age of 12 as a result of the outbreak.

“We are restricting children under age 12 from visiting Blessing Hospital patients until further notice to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the virus for all involved, the children who would be visiting and our patients,” Dr. Robert Merrick, MD, said in a hospital press release.

The number of hospitalizations in connection to the illness could be “just the tip of the iceberg in terms of severe cases,” Pallansch told CNN.

To help reduce the risk of infection…

  • Wash hands often with soap and water
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid kissing, hugging and sharing cups with people who are sick
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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