More than 200 children have been sickened by the Enterovirus D68 since August, with confirmed cases of the respiratory illness spreading across more than half of the United States.
Laboratory confirmed cases of the enterovirus have been reported in 30 states, according to the latest update provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), affecting at least 213 people so far.
Except for one adult case, all confirmed cases of enterovirus D68 linked to the outbreak have been found among children, and the federal health agency indicates that there are no signs the reports of illnesses will slow down anytime soon.
The increase in cases is likely attributable to several causes, according to health officials, including clusters of people in several states with symptoms of the illness, which can present with simple flu like symptoms to more severe respiratory problems.
A backlog of specimens are being tested, which can only be done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a small number of state public health labs.
Testing of the enterovirus is complex and much slower than other illnesses. As the backlog of specimens continues to be tested, it is likely confirmed cases will increase. Officials say this does not reflect infection changes in real time or indicate the situation is worsening.
Spread Linked To School Attendance
Reports of children affected by enterovirus, a rarely reported illness in the U.S., began in early August. The first cases were reported in Kansas City and Chicago, with patient hospitalizations increasing as the month progressed.
Health officials say the start of the school year in August and September has helped to aid the spread of the virus. Summer and fall are the prime seasons for enterovirus illness.
Symptoms of the virus may begin with signs similar to a summer cold, causing problems like a cough, runny nose or low grade fever. However, the symptoms begin to worsen rapidly, sending many children to the hospital. Quite a few have landed in the intensive care unit (ICU), wheezing and struggling to breathe, needing asthma treatments.
Infants, children and teenagers face the greatest risk of infection, especially if they have asthma or a history of wheezing or difficulty breathing.
Over the past 40 years, the enterovirus has been rarely reported in the U.S. The CDC does not have a surveillance system specifically designed to collect information on the virus, like many other illnesses.
There is no vaccine or cure to prevent or treat enterovirus D68. Typically, treatment of the symptoms is all that can be done. In certain cases more intensive respiratory therapy is necessary.
States which have laboratory confirmed cases of enterovirus D68 include; Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Utah, Washington and West Virginia.