A mysterious respiratory virus, similar to the common cold but far more pernicious, is affecting thousands across 10 US states – hospitalizing hundreds of children, affecting those with asthma or those under the age of 5.
The disease has yet to be officially identified, but officials suspect it is the rare respiratory virus called human enterovirus 68. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the virus is related to the rhinovirus, which is what causes the common cold.
Enterovirus 68 causes respiratory illness in children. It can attack the central nervous system and cause paralysis or even death.
Some US states are reporting 70 new cases a day including Kansas, Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana, but Colorado and Missouri have been hit the hardest, according to a local media report.
There is no vaccine for human enterovirus 68 according to Missouri health officials, adding “there is also no specific treatment for the virus.”
Since the virus is not treatable with antibiotics, doctors have been giving patients steroids and medication to help improve breathing. Respiratory problems seem to be the most threatening symptom, and some children and teenagers are being put in intensive care, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
HLN quoted one doctor saying, “What’s troubling about this virus is it starts out with cold-like symptoms including fever, sneezing, coughing, and body aches – making it difficult to properly diagnose until more serious symptoms show up.”
Dr. Christine Nyquist at Children’s Hospital Colorado said the virus usually “appears similar to a severe cold.”“The kids are coming in with respiratory symptoms, where their asthma is exacerbated,” Nyquist told ABC News. “Kids with no wheezing are having severe wheezing.”
Children’s Hospital Colorado locations reported treating more than 900 children for severe respiratory illnesses since August 18, with 86 of them needing to be admitted to hospital, according to 7News.
Officials told CNN that enteroviruses are not uncommon, but it is unusual that so many children have been hospitalized.